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Heat Pump vs Air Conditioner: Which is Better For Beating the Florida Heat?

When living in Florida, having an efficient home cooling system like an air conditioner or heat pump is not just a desire, it’s a necessity! Because of the heat and humidity, most Florida residents today rely on one of these systems to maintain not only reasonable comfort levels but to lower humidity levels as well.

But which HVAC system is better for beating the Florida heat? A heat pump or air conditioner?

To answer that question, we first need to explain how the two systems operate. Then we’ll look at 2 factors important to homeowners who might be considering the purchase of a new HVAC system: Cost and Efficiency.

What is a Heat Pump and How is it Different Than an Air Conditioner?

Many homeowners believe that air conditioners work by introducing cold air into the home. But in fact, air conditioners make your home cooler by using a compressed refrigerant to collect heat from inside your home as air passes over the coil in the air handler and pumping it outside. A heat pump, in cooling mode, does the same job. It is a mechanical-compression cycle refrigeration system that can be reversed to either heat or cool a controlled space. 

A heat pump is always working, in summer and in winter, transporting warm air from one place to another, to heat or cool, according to the season. In cold weather, a heat pump will extract the heat outside and move it indoors. When it’s warm outside, the heat pump will reverse direction and operate in the same fashion as an air conditioner to cool the home. 

Cost Considerations: Heat Pump Vs Air Conditioner

The largest consumer of energy in a typical Florida home is the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system, which can account for more than 40% of home energy use and, therefore, for more than 40% of your utility bill. Energy use by your HVAC system is affected by many factors such as insulation levels, system efficiency, shading on the home, quality and sealing of the windows and doors, design and integrity of the duct system, and, of course, how the system is used. (1)

In cooling mode, there really isn’t much difference in cost or efficiency whether you use a heat pump or an air conditioner.  But remember, while a heat pump can both cool and heat your home, an air conditioner cannot. It can only provide cooling. This means that you’ll have to pair your air conditioner with a furnace or natural gas unit to provide heat in the colder months.

Another consideration in terms of cost is longevity and unit replacement cost. Since a heat pump both cools and heats a home, it works year-round. For this reason, AC units, which don’t need to run continuously in the winter months, experience less wear and tear and may not need to be replaced as often. 

This expense could be offset, however, by the yearly cost-savings of owning a heat pump, which is more energy-efficient than a furnace in the cooler months. 

Let’s explore heat pump energy efficiency a little more.

Which is More Efficient: Heat Pump or Air Conditioner? 

At Gator Air and Energy, we want our customers to get the best, most energy-efficient products. That’s why we install Trane® cooling units. Trane® offers a variety of air conditioners, heat pumps, and more that range in efficiency (SEER), sound levels, price, and more. 

What is SEER?

SEER measures air conditioning and heat pump cooling efficiency, which is calculated by the cooling output for a typical cooling season divided by the total electric energy input during the same time frame. A SEER rating is a maximum efficiency rating, similar to the miles per gallon for your car. Your car might get 28 miles per gallon on the highway, but if you’re stuck in city traffic it could be lower. If your air conditioner is 21 SEER, that’s its maximum efficiency. (2)

As we stated earlier, in cooling mode, there really isn’t much difference in cost or efficiency whether you use a heat pump or an air conditioner.

When it comes to heating your home in the winter however, a heat pump will typically be more energy-efficient than a furnace which is paired with an air conditioner. 

Why?

A heat pump transfers or recycles heat rather than generating it as a furnace does. 

Under ideal conditions, a heat pump can transfer 300 percent more energy than it consumes. In contrast, a high-efficiency gas furnace is about 90 percent efficient. Heat pumps are powered by electricity, so you can save substantially on fuel consumption. A heat pump is over 100% efficient in temperate climates with milder winters. (3)

Heat pumps are highly efficient and effective in temperatures as low as 25 degrees. If homeowners use a furnace in the 40-60 degree range, it will provide significantly more heat and power than is needed, which will result in higher energy consumption.

Of course, in order to optimize the efficiency of your heat pump, it’s important to keep it well-maintained. Let’s look at how routine maintenance positively affects efficiency.

How to Optimize Heat Pump Efficiency

As we explained in a previous post, you shouldn’t wait until something’s broken to service your heat pump. Routine maintenance will increase your system’s longevity and prevent expensive repairs. At least once a year, you should:

  • Inspect ducts, filters, and indoor coils for dirt
  • Diagnose and seal duct leakage
  • Inspect heat pump belts for wear
  • Make sure your thermostats are working
  • Verify proper airflow

The more you care for your heat pump, the more likely your heater will work when you need it!

Final Considerations Before Choosing a Heat Pump or Air Conditioner

After you’ve researched the different types of systems, your next call should be to a skilled air conditioning contractor. Why? The operating efficiency of a system relies on proper installation to achieve its performance rating. At Gator Air and Energy, our licensed technicians will advise you on the proper sizing of the system for the specific cooling load of your home. We’ll also ensure the selection and proper installation of thermostats or controls; proper installation and commissioning of the system; and, if required, a duct system designed to deliver the correct amount of conditioned air to each space within the building; and sealing and insulating all ductwork.(4) 

Whether you choose a heat pump or air conditioner for your next HCAV system installation or upgrade, you can relax knowing that Gator Air and Energy provides the highest quality cooling systems to help you beat the Florida heat! 

  References:

  1. http://www.myfloridahomeenergy.com/help/library/hvac/air-conditioning/#sthash.t7XPRHUM.dpbs
  2. https://www.trane.com/residential/en/resources/glossary/what-is-seer/
  3. https://www.trane.com/residential/en/resources/heat-pump-vs-furnace-what-heating-system-is-right-for-you/
  4. http://www.myfloridahomeenergy.com/help/library/hvac/air-conditioning/#sthash.t7XPRHUM.dpb

5 Biggest Furnace Hazards: How to Protect Your Family

 

Furnaces are the most commonly used residential heating system in the United States. Running most often on gas, but sometimes on oil, propane, or electricity, furnaces deliver their heat through a duct system. Since we don’t use our heaters too often in Florida, it’s easy to neglect routine maintenance. But there’s nothing worse than turning on your heater on a cold winter morning and finding your heater not working! According to Angie’s List, some HVAC experts say up to 75% of no-heat calls in the winter are related to a lack of maintenance. 

Neglecting your furnace can also create serious health hazards. Let’s take a look at these common furnace hazards and explain how to protect yourself and your family from these dangers.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Carbon monoxide poisoning is a life-threatening emergency that occurs from inhaling carbon monoxide (CO) fumes. CO is a colorless, odorless gas made when fuels such as wood, gasoline, natural gas, or kerosene burn. Breathing in carbon monoxide prevents the body from using oxygen properly, which can harm the brain, heart, and other organs. An estimated 500 people die each year, and 15,000 people are taken to emergency rooms, because of exposure to carbon monoxide. Most of these are avoidable and occur in the winter when our homes are closed and heaters are in use. 

Regular maintenance of your home’s heating and ventilation system will help prevent a carbon monoxide leak. You should also protect yourself with alarms installed on every floor and near every bedroom in your home as well as one by your furnace (at a distance of 10 or more feet away). According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), a qualified heating contractor should inspect your home heating system annually. The technician will check your furnace, its electrical and mechanical components, thermostat controls, and automatic safety switches. Checking ventilation systems for any blockages or cracks that could allow carbon monoxide to leak into your home prevents HVAC safety hazards.

Carbon monoxide is especially important to be aware of if your house has a chimney and you use your fireplace. If unchecked for an extended period of time, a chimney can gather grime and soot. This can trap some of the fumes in the house, including carbon monoxide. Even if you don’t have a chimney, the furnace burner, electrical wiring, mechanical controls, and more can also be potential causes of this dangerous gas. A Gator Air & Energy technician can ensure that your house is clean of carbon monoxide and help prevent future issues by finding areas where the gas might get trapped in heating the house.

Allergens

Your furnace heats your home by taking in air, warming it, and dispersing it through your home via ductwork and in-room vents. During the spring and summer months, your unit accumulates dust as well as allergens and indoor air quality contaminants including pollen, mold, and pet dander, which are then circulated through your home when you turn on the heater. The immediate effects of encounters with these pollutants can include:

  • Irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue

Long-term effects from the presence of these pollutants sometimes involve:

  • Humidifier fever
  • Hypersensitivity pneumonitis
  • Asthma
  • Respiratory diseases
  • Heart disease
  • Cancer

Dr. Adrian Casillas, an assistant professor of medicine in the division of clinical immunology and allergy at the University of California, at Los Angeles, School of Medicine suggests that one way to cure this problem is to have your heating ducts cleaned prior to firing up your furnace for the first time. In addition to cleaning your ducts, Gator Air & Energy will conduct a thorough inspection to check your ducts for holes and leaks, hidden restrictions, and insufficient insulation that could cost you extra money each month on your energy bill.

Fire 

Whether gas or electricity powers your furnace, it has the potential to be a fire hazard for your furnace. As we explained in a previous article, the furnace burner is the spot in your central heating unit where air and fuel are burned to produce heat. Because there’s an actual flame here, it’s very important that the burner is clean of any dirt, grime, grease, or anything else that could inadvertently catch on fire. Gator Air & Energy technicians have the proper tools and equipment to carefully and thoroughly clean your gas or electric furnace and are also trained to identify and remedy potentially dangerous electrical issues such as frayed wires or corroded electrical contacts before they cause a dangerous house fire. 

Crowding

Your furnace needs room and unobstructed airflow to operate properly. You should always keep at least a 3 ft clearance around all sides of your unit. This will not only make it easier for your Gator Air & Energy technician to service your unit but it will help ensure that combustible items are not in the immediate vicinity. Never store volatile chemicals such as gasoline, paint thinners, or paint near your furnace. The high heat and sparks produced could ignite dangerous fumes. It’s also important to avoid clutter around your furnace. Hang laundry several feet away from your unit and keep cleaners and detergents capped securely and at a distance. 

Neglect

Dirt and neglect are the top causes of heating and cooling system inefficiency and failure. Routine maintenance is the best way to ensure your furnace continues to operate at peak efficiency. Trane recommends scheduling an appointment to have a licensed HVAC technician inspect your furnace annually before the heating season begins because most furnace problems can be caught early with preventative maintenance. With regular maintenance, feel confident that when it comes to turning your furnace on, it will work safely. 

Annual maintenance can also save the cost of an emergency call for a costly repair.

When performing routine maintenance on your furnace, a Gator Air & Energy technician will:

  • Check the combustion chamber for cracks
  • Test for carbon monoxide (CO) and remedy if found
  • Adjust blower control and supply-air temperature
  • Clean and oil the blower
  • Remove dirt, soot, or hazardous corrosion from the furnace or boiler
  • Check fuel input and flame characteristics, and adjust if necessary
  • Seal connections between the furnace and main ducts.

We hope this information has deepened your understanding of how important it is to have your furnace inspected by a professional. If it’s been more than 12 months since your last furnace inspection, contact Gator Air and Energy to set up an appointment so we can make sure your furnace will be ready for the next cold snap and you and your family will enjoy a warm and safe winter season!

Switching to heating from cooling, heating tips as Gainesville temperatures Fall!

Everyone that lives in Gainesville and the surrounding areas is probably grateful for the cooler weather we have been experiencing! As you open your windows and turn off the AC. It’s important to prepare for when it gets a little too chilly and it comes time to switch to heating from cooling.

Switching From Cooling to Heating Best Practices

It may seem simple and self-explanatory, and for the most part, it is! But, there are some best practices to ensure that your heating and cooling system are properly prepared for winter.

Furnace Inspection

Before you turn on the heat, a simple furnace inspection can go a long way to guarantee your system is ready for winter. This isn’t completely necessary to do before turning on your heater, so don’t freeze if you can’t get an inspection in time for the cold weather. However, if you are thinking ahead, an inspection is a great way to make sure your system is clean and your filters are changed!

Turning Up The Heat

It is best to switch your system to “heat” after the system completes an entire cycle. Therefore, if your AC is currently running, make sure that it switches itself off. When in between cycles, switch the thermostat from “cool” to “off.” 

Leave the system in “off” mode for at least 5 minutes. If you don’t wait, this could cause issues with your system’s pressure, if the pressure is too high when you switch to “heat,” the compressor can lock up and cause a blown fuse or tripped breaker.

If your heat doesn’t come on right away, you may have to check the furnace itself to make sure it is turned on. Most furnaces have a switch on the side of the furnace, so make sure this is in the on position.

 

Prepping Your AC for the Cold

As Floridians, we don’t have to deal with the same level of temperatures as our friends up North. Even so, there are still steps you should take to prepare your AC for the winter.

  • Turn the power to your AC off: There should be a small box on the outside of your house near the condenser. This is where you will find the power switch for your AC unit. Turning this off is a great way to save energy, as it keeps your unit from turning on during unseasonably warm days, and reduces the risk when completing other maintenance tasks.
  • Clean Your AC Unit: When your AC Unit is turned off, this is a great time to do some cleaning to the exterior of your system. Removing unwanted leaves, dust, dirt, pollen, and everything else that manages to dirty your unit is a great way to keep your unit from getting clogged in the seasons it is running.
  • Cover The AC Unit: Despite not having to deal with snow and very little ice, covering your unit in the winter is a great way to keep your system from cracking or rusting while it isn’t running.

 

Heating Tips for This Winter

We all have felt the increased cost of Gainesville Regional Utilities, better known as GRU, this summer. Gator Air and Energy has already given you our tips and tricks to keeping your AC bill low, so here are some tips to get the most out of your Furnace this winter. Most of which, not surprisingly, is the exact opposite advice to keep your AC bill down.

Keep Your Heater Set to 68°

Similar to keeping your AC at a modestly higher temperature, keeping your heater at a lower temperature will save you money. For every degree below 70°, you can expect to cut your energy bill by 5%. This means you can save 10% on your energy bill, simply by keeping your heat set to 68°. It is called sweater weather for a reason after all!

Flip Your Fan Switch

If you followed our guide to keep your AC bill low, then your fan is probably rotating counterclockwise. Now that the temperature has fallen, and we are switching to heating from cooling, it is time to switch the fan to rotate clockwise. This pushes warm air down and reduces the stress on your furnace.

Direct Heat to the Rooms That Need it Most

The bigger your living space, the more energy it takes to keep your home warm. A great way to reduce energy consumption is to close the vents and doors to rooms that aren’t being used. This keeps the rooms you spend time in nice and cozy, without overworking your furnace..

Don’t Turn Your Heat Off When You are Not at Home

It may seem like turning off your heater when no one is home would be a great way to save energy. If the temperature outside isn’t too cold, this may be the case. But, if the temperature inside your home drops too low. It can take more resources to heat your home back to being comfortable as opposed to turning it completely off.

Not to mention, you also run the risk of your pipes bursting if the temperature of your home drops below freezing.

Improving Your Homes Insulation

Poor insulation in your home could cost you an additional 15% of your energy bill. There are a few DIY methods to improve insulation to reduce your heating bill this winter. The biggest offenders of poor insulation are typically the cracks in your doors and windows. These can be filled with weather stripping or caulk and make a massive difference in your home’s insulation.

Maintain Your Heating System

Just like AC units, heating systems get worn down over extended periods of time. One of the best ways to ensure your furnace is working properly is to schedule an inspection of your system. 

There is also a time when older systems are so inefficient that they cost more money than a new system would save you. Especially in the Gainesville area, there are a lot of older homes that have been using the same system for over 15 years. If this is the case, it may be time to consider the value of a new furnace or heat pump for your home.

Are you ready to switch your system from cooling to heating?

Now that you have these tips and tricks for heating your home this winter, you should be better prepared to save money and reduce wear on your heating system. There are a few best practices that only experts in the HVAC industry can perform, and for these services, Gator Air & Energy is your go-to Gainesville HVAC company this winter!

Get in touch with our experts today, to ensure that your family stays warm this winter, without breaking the bank!

Replacing Your Central AC Unit – What You Need to Know 

AC units can last a very long time. With proper maintenance and care, homeowners can go 10-15 years without replacing their units. Eventually, the time will come when purchasing a new unit will give you more value than repairing an old one.

Gator Air & Energy wants to prepare Gainesville and Ocala for anything that comes your way when it’s time for a replacement Central Air Conditioning Unit.

Signs That You May Need a New AC Unit

Air conditioners are essential to making it through North Florida’s hot and humid summers. There are some telltale signs that your AC unit is in need of a replacement. 

  • Frequent Breakdowns

  • Blowing Hot Air

  • Poor Airflow

  • AC Unit won’t turn off or on

In most instances, a repair can solve these issues, At Gator Air and Energy repairing is always the first option. We do what we can to save our customers time and money, and if it is cost-effective, we will always recommend repairs over replacements.

When Should You Repair and When Should You Replace Your Central AC Unit?

There are instances where replacing a unit will be the more cost-effective and efficient option for home and business owners. There are 3 major factors that help determine whether you should replace or repair your air conditioner.

  • The Age of Your Unit

With the average life expectancy of an air conditioner at between 10-15 years, it doesn’t make much sense to continue maintaining and repairing a unit that is going to continue causing you problems.

  • The Cost of Your Energy Bills

Regardless of how well-maintained your current unit is, old units will be less energy efficient and have higher energy bills than new ones. 

A new unit could end up being a long-term investment and over time eventually save you money.

  • The Cost of the Repair

In most cases, it is more cost-effective to repair a central unit than to replace one. This is especially true when dealing with a relatively new system. But as time goes on, the money you put into old AC units becomes less and less valuable. 

“The Rule of 5000” is a good practice to reference when making this decision. That is, if the cost of the repair X and the age of the unit exceeds 5000, it may be time to consider replacing the unit.

How Can I Prevent Broken AC Units?

You can take plenty of preventative measures to make your AC units last longer. Gator Air & Energy goes deep on keeping your AC running smoothly in this blog article.

New Central AC Unit

Total Cost of a New AC Unit In Gainesville

The cost of new air conditioning can vary greatly depending on square footage, energy needs, and many other factors. The only way to know 100% what a new central AC unit is going to cost is to have an expert evaluate your energy needs.

What Goes Into a New AC Unit Cost in Gainesville?

With such a wide range of what a new AC unit can cost, it is evident that a lot of factors go into the pricing of a new unit. Here is a brief rundown of what you are paying for when getting a new air conditioner.

Air Conditioning Unit Energy Efficiency

Gator Air & Energy installs Trane® air conditioners, these units vary in energy efficiency based on their SEER.

What is SEER? 

A SEER is the rating or ratio a central AC unit is given that is based on how energy efficient the unit is. SEER actually stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio and is determined by the output divided by the Watt-hours of the central AC unit.

Trane® (our go-to HVAC system) has a great blog post that goes into great detail about what a good SEER rating consists of. 

Central AC Unit Capacity

The size of your home or commercial space plays a large part in what your AC unit capacity needs are. While being too small can obviously cause issues, being too large can be just as detrimental. 

A central AC unit that is too big can cause the unit to turn off and on too often, which can cause issues with removing moisture from the home, which is super important in Gainesville’s swampy climate!

Ductwork Modification

Having ductwork that fits the requirements of your AC unit is extremely important to the longevity and performance of your system. 

Because different units have different requirements when getting an HVAC system replaced it is important for the installers to make any necessary modifications to your pre-existing ductwork.

Electrical Costs

Some older AC units do not have thermostats with the level of air control that you will want with a new HVAC system. This can occasionally require updating the control wiring to ensure everything runs smoothly.

Gator Air & Energy only recommends the best option for your HVAC needs!

What If I Can’t Afford a Replacement AC Unit?

An entire new air conditioning unit can be expensive, and not many people have the cash on hand to cover such an unexpected cost. Luckily, Gator Air & Energy has financing options available to make replacing your central AC a more approachable option. With credit approval, you can receive a loan with no down payment, convenient monthly payments, and easy account management. 

This allows our customers to make the financially smart decision, even if they don’t have the ability to pay for it up front!

Get An Estimate on How Much Your AC Replacement Will Cost in Gainesville.

With so many factors to consider when choosing which HVAC Unit meets your needs while still maintaining an affordable price, an expert needs to evaluate your space to give you the best and most accurate price estimate.

Gator Air & Energy has the experience and expertise required to give North Central Florida residents the best possible options when it comes to AC installation.

GRU Energy Costs Increasing? Try Our 10 Energy Saving Tips!

Are you feeling the pain of increasing energy costs this summer? You are not alone. Gainesville has been affected by the GRU rate hikes, brought on by increasing natural gas and energy costs. But are there steps you can take to mitigate these cost increases? Yes! Gator Air and Energy specializes in energy efficiency, and we want to give you some tips on how to keep your energy bills as low as possible with these energy-saving tips!

Save Energy by Decreasing the Stress on Your AC

Gainesville is hot – really hot. This means that your air conditioning has to work extra hard to keep you cool, which increases your energy costs. Any stress you can take off of your AC unit will help keep prices down. Here are some tips to do so!

Keep Your Blinds Shut!

As much as we all love keeping our homes and apartments filled with natural light, this can heat up your space fast! We recommend keeping your blinds closed, especially at the hottest times of the day. 

Is Your Fan Running? It Better Be!

Fans can decrease the temperature in your rooms by up to 4 degrees! This means you can keep your thermostat running at a higher temperature without being uncomfortable. One thing to keep in mind is that your fans should be rotating counterclockwise in the summer. This creates increased air circulation and produces a nice breeze effect

energy saving ceiling fan

Turn the Thermostat Up.

Duke Energy confirms that every degree your thermostat is set above 78, can decrease your bill by up to 10% (if your apartment complex allows it). If you are out of the house during work hours, consider raising your thermostat a couple of degrees, and turning it back down when you return.

Replace Your AC Filters.

A congested AC filter can take a toll on the efficiency of your unit. A dirty filter can decrease airflow and force your AC to work harder for the same results. This is also a great practice to increase your indoor air quality!

Ensure proper insulation.

If you are a homeowner, ensuring that your home is properly insulated can make a huge difference in your energy consumption. If you are a renter, consider speaking to your landlord about your insulation. This will help not only in the summer months but the winter months as well. Many homes and buildings in Gainesville are older, so they may not have the best insulation.

Consider a Smart Thermostat.

This is one of the more costly solutions to help lower your energy consumption, but there are many great Smart Thermostat options available that can help regulate your home’s temperature. 

Close Vents and Doors!

The bigger your space is, the more likely you are to be cooling rooms that are not in use, such as guest bedrooms. By closing the vents and doors in these spaces, you can keep the other rooms in your home cool at a lower price.

Get a Free Energy Audit 

Gator Air and Energy offers free energy audits to GRU customers! We offer these services to both Residential and Commercial customers, as part of our efforts to save Gainesville money and energy!

Use LED light bulbs!

Not only can LEDs use 75% less energy, but they also emit less heat! This means you aren’t warming your rooms up by using old and energy-inefficient bulbs!

 Schedule an Air Duct Cleaning.

If your air ducts have leaks or debris clogging the airflow, this can greatly reduce the efficiency of your air conditioning. We at Gator Air and Energy have duct cleaning services that can save you money on your monthly energy bill!

HVAC  Gainesville FL Gator Air & Energy

How can Gainesville Air and Energy Help?

Apart from these simple, free DIY tips and tricks, AC maintenance can help you decrease your energy bills greatly! Gator Air and Energy takes energy efficiency seriously, it’s one of our core values! Not only does it help mitigate the increasing energy costs our customers are all facing, but it also mitigates your carbon footprint and helps the environment!

Refrigerant Leaks: Everything You Need to Know

Within your air conditioner, the key cooling agent is the refrigerant, which are fluids or gases that cycle throughout your air conditioner. You may not know much about refrigerants as a layperson, but your HVAC system could not run without them. Read on to learn more about why refrigerant leaks are important to address and their role in cooling. 

How Does Refrigerant Work? 

To start, the compressor forces the refrigerant through a series of cooling steps before compressing it. This compression produces heat as the molecules within the gas begin colliding with each other in a small space. The refrigerant then passes through the condenser where fans remove the heat and cool the gas to a liquid state. This liquid passes through evaporator coils where it becomes a chilled gas that finally releases into the airflow of your home or building through AC vents. 

As the refrigerant passes through the entirety of your air conditioner to produce the cooled air that chills your home, damages at any point can result in a refrigerant leak. However, there are some key root problems behind most leaks, including:

  • Corrosion. Over time, your air conditioning unit may develop rust, leaving corroded metal and cracks and holes where refrigerant seeps out. 
  • Loosened Joints. As with any machine, wear and tear weakens the joints that hold your air conditioner together. As these connections thin and loosen, refrigerant leaks become increasingly problematic. 
  • Manufacturing and Installation Errors. Sometimes, the issue lies with factory defects that couldn’t have been prevented. In these cases, a warranty replacement of any parts or unit is required. On the other hand, improper installation leads to parts that are not fitted properly, causing refrigerant leaks to be an inevitable part of cooling your home with a faulty unit. 

Signs of a Refrigerant Leak

When your air conditioner experiences a refrigerant leak, it can dramatically reduce its cooling power for your space. As refrigerant leaks out of your unit, the energy used to fuel the process up to that point is wasted, leaving you with a frustratingly warm environment and higher utility bills. To spot a refrigerant leak early on, look out for these warning signs: 

  • Increased electric costs. Regardless of the root issue, inexplicably higher energy costs should be investigated with a repair inspection of your air conditioner. 
  • Longer wait for a cool home. When you lower the thermostat, noticing that your AC takes significantly longer to cool your home to the new temperature is often the result of a leak. 
  • Frozen evaporator coil. If the refrigerant is leaking from your unit, there will not be enough circulating within the evaporator coils at the end of its typical cooling process. This means that the coil cannot absorb enough heat and will develop frost and ice around it as a result.

The Dangers of Refrigerant Leaks

Your AC’s refrigerant poses many health hazards before it is adequately processed by the unit. A significant leak through the vents of your home can lead to dangerous symptoms, including light-headedness, dizziness, shortness of breath, difficulty concentrating, and skin irritations. Further, a liquid leak of refrigerant is dangerous to touch as skin exposure to this liquid can cause chemical burns and frostbite. 

Concerns for Older AC Units 

For a noteworthy reminder, older air conditioners typically rely upon a refrigerant called the R-22 compound. Unfortunately for homeowners with these older units, this coolant has been phased out by the government since early on during 2020. 

If your air conditioner experiences a leak or other significant damage and uses this outdated coolant, it is recommended that you upgrade your unit rather than spending on repairs to stopgap inevitable investment. Often, these older units are riddled with additional issues beyond the leak at hand due to their years of wear, creating repair costs that match that of a new unit when considering the inflated cost of this now scarce refrigerant. 

Fix the Leak With Gator Air & Energy

While the internet provides a wealth of information and countless do-it-yourself guides, repairing your air conditioner is best left to trusted professionals with the expertise to get the job done correctly and safely. To get your air conditioner back to its former glory, trust your Gator Air & Energy team to restore your unit’s optimal cooling capacity and energy efficiency. Reach out today to book your AC repair by either contacting us online or giving us a call at (352) 389-4396. 

AC Replacement or Repair: Which is Best for Your Air Conditioner?

Living in the Gainesville, FL heat, and experiencing problems with your air conditioning is on the top of any homeowner’s list of dreaded hassles. However, while the scorching sun is certainly a concern, the cost of getting your air conditioning back to working order is often a homeowner’s biggest worry. While repairing your air conditioner might offer a lesser expense at the time, putting a band-aid over a progressively declining unit may lead to higher accumulated costs down the road. Here, we’ll break down the best ways to tell whether AC repair or AC replacement is the optimal option for your home.  

Is It Time to Go for an AC Replacement? 

If your air conditioner is experiencing problems or has stopped working completely, it’s important to consider whether it’s best to repair the damage back to working condition or upgrade your unit for a lasting solution. To do so, there are some key points to evaluate, including the following. 

The Age of Your AC Unit

If your air conditioner is getting up there in years, you may also soon find your home getting up there in terms of indoor temperatures. The lifespan of an air conditioner is about 15 to 20 years. However, to continue cooling your home effectively and efficiently, it’s recommended that you replace your air conditioner with a newer unit after 10 years, or at most 15 years. 

Further, today’s best air conditioners consume 30% to 50% less energy to provide the same cooling power as older models produced in the 70s. So, if your air conditioner is even only 10 years old, replacing it with a newer unit can save you anywhere from 20% to 40% on cooling costs annually.  

Use of R-22 Freon

The federal government has begun to phase our freon to conserve energy across the nation for environmental sustainability. As a result, freon costs have exponentially risen. If your air conditioner still relies upon freon, you’ll soon have to make the switch to an upgraded unit that alternatively uses the new standard of R410A refrigerant. 

If your unit is encountering issues keeping your home or business cool, upgrading now may be the wisest financial decision. 

The Frequency of Repair Needs

All HVAC units will require some repair costs over their lifespan, as any machine or appliance does. However, if your unit has needed frequent repairs in the last few years and is experiencing subsequent issues, a replacement may be your best option. Similarly, if the cost to continue repairing your unit is comparable to investing in a new — and likely better — unit, it wouldn’t make much sense to continue pouring money into your current unit.

The Repair Cost

When considering purchasing a replacement for your air conditioner, it is important to also consider the applicable warranty that comes with your upgrade. If you are having to spend on repairs currently, those anticipated costs may far outweigh the cost of an upgraded unit, especially if the new unit has a valuable warranty that will work to stave off repair costs in the future as well. 

AC Replacement and Repair from Gator Air & Energy in Gainesville, FL

When your AC unit starts giving you problems, our team will expertly assess the state of your air conditioner and provide you with advice on how to best get your home cool once again. Whether repair or replacement is best for your unit, you don’t have to decide with uncertainty. Our team is committed to educating you to make the best decision for your family, considering cost, energy efficiency, longevity, and comfort

To ask our experts for advice on whether it’s best to repair or replace your air conditioner and get your home back to being cool and comfortable, contact us today! 

How to Keep Your AC Running Smoothly

When you’re sitting on the couch and feel the temperature steadily begin to rise within your home, the dreaded realization that your air conditioner (AC) is not working properly can set your day on an unexpected, stressful path. However, with proactive care and maintenance, you can avoid it all. 

Below, we’ll walk you through 4 of the most effective ways to keep your air conditioner running smoothly all year long and provide some simple steps homeowners can take on themselves to troubleshoot an air conditioner that isn’t performing correctly. 

Replace Your AC Filter

While replacing your AC filter should be on your to-do list approximately every three months, this is a great place to start troubleshooting issues with your air conditioner. If your air conditioner stops working, check here to ensure that your filter is clear of excessive dust and debris, and if you haven’t swapped it out for a fresh filter in over 90 days, take this opportunity to do so. 

Protect Your AC From Storms

As a Florida homeowner, you’re likely well aware of the damaging toll that storm season can have on your house. While we often consider preparing for hurricanes and thunderstorms for evacuation plans and assets like roofs, many homeowners neglect to protect their air conditioning unit as well. While you may inevitably lose power, and thus air conditioning, your AC unit can still take damages throughout the storm. 

To protect your air conditioner to restore your comfortably cool home after a storm, make sure to take these steps to minimize your need for AC repair or replacement.

  • Ensure that there are no overhanging tree limbs or loose items surrounding your air conditioning unit.
  • Turn off the electricity to your air conditioner during a severe storm to protect from electrical surges or consider installing an HVAC surge protector
  • Clear your air conditioner of any debris, including any leaves that have built up. 

To read more about how to keep your air conditioner safe in the event of a hurricane, read our blog for more information!

Maintenance Service Is Key For Your AC

To cool your home year-round without repair needs, it is imperative that you keep to a regular maintenance schedule for your air conditioner. To best protect your HVAC unit, we recommend that you schedule maintenance in the fall and spring. Doing so will ensure that your unit is equipped to combat the winter’s cold and the summer’s heat without exacerbating any issues that have arisen. 

To schedule maintenance for your air conditioner, call us today to book or fill out our online contact form for more information!

Ensure That Your Thermostat Is Set Correctly

Adjust Your Home’s Temperature

An ideal temperature to set your thermostat to is 78 degrees during the day. This temperature will keep your family and guests comfortably cool while not overworking your air conditioning unit as it combats the grueling Florida heat. If you’re not home during the day, ensure that you raise the thermostat temperature to not only keep your AC from working harder than needed but also to save money on your summertime energy bills.

Check Your Thermostat’s Fan Settings

While looking at your thermostat may seem like an obvious answer when your air conditioning fails to cool your home, an unintentional press to the wrong button could be the root cause of your hot home. When you think something must be wrong with your AC system without a clear problem, one of the first things is to verify that your thermostat is correctly set. 

We often find that someone in the house had accidentally set the thermostat from “automatic” to “fan.” When set to “automatic” your thermostat correctly tells the air conditioner to turn on when the indoor temperature rises above a set point. Alternatively, when set to “fan” the thermostat signals your air conditioner to blow air through the ducts while no cooling occurs. 

Rely On Our Trusted AC Professionals In Gainesville, FL

From AC preventative care to emergency care needs, our team in Gainesville, FL has you covered. When it comes to getting your air conditioner working as it should, there’s no need to sweat in a hot house or a stressful situation. If the issue seems too big to fix yourself or if you’d like to entrust your system to a trained professional, our team is here to help. Give us a call at (352)275-4827 and we’ll send out our expert technicians to get your air conditioner cooling your home comfortably once again in no time!

Duct Cleaning and Root Cause Analysis of Dirty Ducts

What Causes Dirty Ducts?

At Gator Air and Energy, we not only clean dirty ducts but we look for the root cause of what is causing unhealthy air in the customer’s home. Ducts mainly get dirty for two reasons: 

  1. Poor quality or filter location in relation to airflow.
  2. The AC unit growing contaminants due to operating conditions. For example, fungal growth that builds in the cooling coil and blower wheel during the summer dries out in the heating and off cycles of the equipment.

Oftentimes, we see both conditions as well as condition 1 contributing to condition 2.

Duct Cleaning Done Right

Let us examine poorly placed filters or improperly installed filters with an example. Often, the house we visit is 30 years old with an air handling unit and filter in the garage that is of poor quality or the wrong size for the opening. The return air travels from an unfiltered grille in the house for 25 feet before “seeing” a filer in the unit. The owner of the house has 2 dogs that shed hair. In this house, we take a picture of the duct full of dog hair and the homeowner knows right away they are a good candidate for return duct cleaning at the very least. 

Next, we cut an opening in the supply air duct above the fan or cooling coil and take a picture of fungal growth in the supply air ducts. In this instance, the growth is likely being fed by the dirty duct conditions and the cold, dark, and humid conditions that all HVAC equipment in Florida operates in during summer without the addition of UV lighting.

For this home, we recommend cleaning (or replacing) the return air duct seeing unfiltered air in addition to supply air cleaning. We’d also recommend painting the first three feet of the duct with microbial paint and adding, at a minimum, a UV light to kill fungal growth or, even better, a combination of UV light and an air purifier to aid in dust collection and air purification. We could also offer a better filtration system, such as a 5-inch filter or an electronic air cleaner in place of a filter to remove 99.8% of all contaminants for an exceptional system that delivers the cleanest and purest air attainable for the customer.

In addition to duct cleaning, we pull and clean (or replace) the grilles and seal the boots to the ceiling that increase hygiene and typically reduce duct-leakage rates by 10 cfm per grille on average.

While $1,500 to $2300 for an average job may seem like a high price to pay for some customers, we believe in doing the job right the first time and fixing the “root cause” of an unhealthy environment, saving you money in the long run.

Duct Cleaning With Gator Air & Energy

Here is a picture of one of our recent jobs, where we added a Trane Clean Effects electronic air cleaner and a dust-free air purifier for long-term HVAC hygiene for a person who suffered from allergies. We also thoroughly cleaned the ducts that had collected over 30 years of dust.

Here, you can see the original dirty return duct. We’ve actually seen much worse as this customer didn’t have a pet to build up dog hair.

  Dirty return duct

For this home, we installed the Trane Clean Effects electronic air cleaner at the bottom of the unit and a Dust Free Air purifier in the supply duct.

Trane clean effect electronic air cleaner

Here, a thorough cleaning involved going into the attic to clean the vertical run of the supply duct.

thorough duct cleaning

Breathe Easier by Trusting Our Experts

At Gator Air and Energy, our trusted team prioritizes the health of your home and the quality of our work. For information on indoor air quality, we recommend customers research air purifiers and UV lights before we prepare an estimate or air quality analysis. Give us a call for professional duct cleaning at (352) 415-9559!

The 2020 Freon Ban: Do You Need to Replace Your Old AC Unit?

 

As 2019 comes to a close, you’ll probably be hearing more reports in the news about the 2020 Freon ban; a ban on  R-22 that goes into effect on January 1, 2020. You may be concerned about whether or not this ban will affect you as a homeowner and if so, how. 

Let’s take a closer look at the details of this ban and how it might affect you.

What is R-22 and Why is it Being Banned?

R-22 is a refrigerant commonly used in air conditioning systems that were built and installed prior to 2010. It is categorized as a Class II controlled substance by the EPA. In the U.S., the EPA regulates ozone-depleting substances (ODS) as either class I or class II. Class I substances have been almost completely phased out in the U.S. because of their higher ozone depletion potential. Ozone absorbs UV radiation, so depletion is potentially threatening to humans and can lead to increased rates of skin cancer.  Class II substances are all hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), which are less damaging to the ozone than class 1 substances, but still harmful. New production and import of most HCFCs will be phased out by 2020. The most common HCFC in use today is HCFC-22 or R-22, which is commonly known by its trademark name, Freon. This colorless, odorless, nonflammable, noncorrosive substance was introduced as a refrigerant in the 1930s. It also proved useful as propellants for aerosols and in numerous technical applications.

How Does a Refrigerant Like R-22 Work?

When warm air inside your home blows across the indoor evaporator coil of your air conditioner, its heat energy transfers to the refrigerant inside the coil. That transfer, in turn, “cools” the air. A refrigerant such as R-22 is pumped back to the compressor where the cycle begins again. The heat absorbed by the R-22 or other coolant is moved outside your home while cooled air is blown inside. Moisture that contributes to humidity is also condensed out of the air. Your cooling system is usually combined with your central heating system because they share the same ductwork for distributing conditioned air throughout your home. 

Will You Be Affected by the Ban? 

Experts estimate half of all residential AC units in the U.S. currently run on R-22 coolant.

If your air conditioning was installed prior to 2010, it’s likely it uses R22 refrigerant. Many air conditioners state what type of coolant the system uses on a label somewhere on the unit but we recommend giving us a call so we can send an experienced, licensed HVAC technician to confirm this. During your service call, we’ll also check your unit for any signs of leakage. 

Your air conditioner is a closed system, so as long as it is in good working order, your Freon level shouldn’t change. However, if you’ve ever needed to have your HVAC system re-charged with Freon or you’ve been limping along with an old AC unit that you know has a leak, we recommend getting your unit repaired and recharged as soon as possible before the ban goes into effect. Freon prices are expected to rise as supply diminishes.

If My AC Unit Runs on R-22, Does That Mean I’ll Have to Replace It?  

Not necessarily. There are many factors to consider before replacing your existing unit. As we explained in a previous article, a great tip to think about when deciding if it’s time for a new unit is if the cost of repair, multiplied by the age of your unit, is more than the cost of a new unit.

(Cost of Repair) X (Age of Old AC Unit in Years) > (Cost of Your New AC)

For Example:

Cost of repair: $450.00

Age of Unit: 15 years

Price of new unit: $5,450.00 (with installation)

($450.00) X (15) = $6,750.00

$6,750.00 > $5,450.00 = Time for a new AC unit.

Regardless of the type of refrigerant your system uses, If your air conditioner is giving you the following warning signs, your unit may be in need of repair:

  • Strange noises
  • Warm air coming from your vents
  • Spike in your electric bill
  • Strange odors coming from your vents
  • Dripping water is creating puddles
  • Electric breaker keeps tripping

If your older unit has been properly maintained and is running well, there’s no immediate need to replace it. And you don’t need to worry that you will be forced to purchase a new unit if supplies of R-22 will run out. According to Trane, there is still enough R-22 available to fill 90.7 Olympic-sized swimming pools!

However, if your unit has been struggling for some time and you anticipate that the 2020 Freon ban will only increase the cost of your future repairs, fall is a great time to have a new unit installed. Not only will you be purchasing an air conditioner that uses a more environmentally-friendly refrigerant but today’s HVAC units are also more energy-efficient, which can help lower your monthly electric bill. Fall is also a good time to have a new AC unit installed because the demand for HVAC servicing is lower in the cooler months which means installation can happen more quickly.

If you’ve been on the fence wondering if it might be time to purchase a new air conditioner, call us to assess the current condition of your unit. We’ll give you an estimate of how much life is left in your HVAC system and help you calculate how much future repairs might cost. We can also give you a quote on a new unit and explain our convenient financing options. 

Here’s to a more energy-efficient and healthier planet in 2020!

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