NJ AIR QUALITY BLOG

What You Should Know When Installing a New Central Air Conditioning System

ByMarc Silberberg

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Anyone under forty would look at this title and probably be puzzled about this subject of researching the best way to upgrade or install central air in your home. This is because many of us are fortunate to have built new construction or have bought homes that already have a central air HVAC system. However, many of the seniors among us can recall the inconvenience of individual air conditioners in strategic places in the home or no air conditioning at all even in hot summer climates like New York and New Jersey.

Some of us may recall the forced closeness of families sleeping in the one room in their home where the sole individual air conditioner unit was situated. It could be in the master bedroom, or the living room depending on the layout and needs or the house and homeowners. Most folks could not afford more than one unit per home unless they were among the higher classes in the neighborhood. Even those people did not have the mentality to consider the luxury of additional air conditioning units.

It is true that many city dwellers ran to the country or beach towns and rented bungalows to escape the brutal city heat. Some of their children were fortunate enough to attend summer camps for parts of their summer vacations. Unlike today, those camps did not imagine anything to do with additional cooling besides fresh air. Today’s summer camps are sure to have air conditioning in their bunk houses and dining rooms since kids would not be ready to give up this so-called necessity which fifty years ago was called comfort.

Do you recall when just a few years ago malls and department stores were trying to save money by setting their central air systems on higher temperatures? Their clientele was shrinking at those times since lots of people go to the mall or shop in the summer just to feel the coolness or the improved air quality that is running through these HVAC systems so efficiently.

When having a central air conditioning system installed in an old home the closets were the usual place to install the ducts causing the homeowner to have a decreased amount of closet space. The homeowner needed to decide if having the home centrally cooled was worth the loss of the closet capacity. On the other hand, today’s ducts are smaller and rounder than those of the past and take up less room and are more efficient at the same time.

Since central air has been around for a long while, some homes may need to upgrade their systems. Besides the high cost of energy or electricity their present central air systems are just not cooling properly anymore. Calling in a serviceman can only help so much when the system must be overhauled completely.

What are Some of the Reasons for a Central Air System Overhaul?

The main units are just not doing the job. This could be because the condenser outside the house has been subject to brutal winter temperatures and adverse weather conditions for too many years. Although these units are made to be installed outdoors there still is a limit to their efficiency. These units could also have expensive parts that need replacement, or these components are simply unavailable anymore. Also, just calling in a serviceman will cost you a fee of over one hundred dollars in most cases before the repair is even begun.

If the central air system is separate from the heating and the breakdown comes in the hot summer, folks need to fix their broken machinery asap and there is no time to wait to fight the oppressive summer heat. Therefore, most consumers will just pay what they must to the installer who comes the quickest.

If your system is more than fifteen years old and you have been calling your HVAC serviceman at least once a year for three or more years consecutively, it is time to replace your system. You will learn that another singular repair will cost you as much as fifty percent of the cost of a new HVAC system and it should be replaced.

To cough up thousands of dollars to replace central air units is bad enough but this might just be the start of your issues. A reputable HVAC specialist will also be checking your air ducts to make sure there are no holes or clogs to decrease your air conditioning efficiency. There is another issue that could be affecting the efficiency of those air ducts and that is the junk that is infesting your ducts. This could be simple dust or some dead matter that was once alive.

If your air ducts are in good condition then you will be paying for the condenser unit only, however, if your air ducts are faulty you may have to listen to a different quote that will include the air ducts’ cost and installation. The newest models of air ducts are smaller and rounder than the old flat styles, which may add much needed space to your closets. The current air duct models are stronger and more insulated to prevent holes from occurring.

New Construction HVAC Systems

Dealing with a new construction is an entirely different game. Hopefully your architect will draw up the design for your HVAC system as well. With new construction a central air system is included in the HVAC system with heating. In other words, the way to go today is to have one system for heating and cooling.

The cost of installing a brand-new HVAC system today will range between five thousand to thirty-four thousand dollars depending on the size of the home and the sophistication of the added technology such as the type and amount of thermostats and zones. For example, a two thousand square foot home would need power of eighty thousand BTU’s. If the installer has to remove the old system including disposing costs of the old parts, the price will rise accordingly.

Ductwork: One of the main costs of your HVAC system other than the condensation unit is the expense of the ductwork. The average cost of the ductwork should be between ten and twenty dollars a linear foot and the average footage is between fifty to two hundred feet depending on the size of the house.

Thermostats: If your HVAC specialist does not include your thermostats in the cost estimate, know that smart thermostats that connect to smart phones run between one hundred twenty five and two hundred fifty dollars per device. In a large house the more zones and thermostats, the more efficient your system will be. With an average family living in the house each person has their own preferences for the temperature in their individual rooms.

Energy Recovery Ventilators (ERV)

When you have decided to install a new HVAC unit, be it in a new construction or updating an old home there is an additional option which will not only save you money in the long run but improve the indoor air quality of your home by reducing indoor air contaminants. When building a new home today, builders and owners are interested in a tightly sealed venue. This means that windows, doors and the general layout of the home are reinforced with products that reduce the flow of air in and out of the home, the warm air in the summer and the cool air in winter.

While this is a good idea you must make sure that the air quality in the home is acceptable if you are having less outside air circulating in the home. The air quality comfort of the members of your family depends largely on the humidity levels of the home. Since a typical ERV contains only a fan and not a condenser it needs substantially less energy to function than your central air unit. As a pair your HVAC and ERV will work together to give you better air quality for a lower price.

An ERV is a ventilation system for the entire house that will keep the air in your home healthy and safe. This system provides your home with fresh air when desired while reducing energy loss when indoor air leaves your house. This system works in both summer and winter to improve indoor air. In the summer the humid warm air coming in from outdoors is precooled and dehumidified, and in the winter, the outdoor cold dry air is preheated and humidified. This enables your HVAC system to work less.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), indoor air can be two to five times more contaminated than outside air quality and recommends that indoor air should be well ventilated. Some folks may think that the simple solution is to open windows regularly; however, the best choice is to install an ERV which will balance the ventilation much more efficiently. With an ERV installed in the home, the owners can have peace of mind that pollutants such as virus aerosols are removed regularly and thoroughly.

Final Words

The air quality of our homes determines if we are living with a comfortable and healthy atmosphere. Flexible temperature controls and clean air are the first ingredients to keep our families healthy and allergy free. While new and renovated homes are being built with specifics such as tighter sealing of cracks and gaps around the windows, this prevents air circulation and ventilation. Pollutants such as dust, mold, volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) or high levels of carbon dioxide can cause all types of health issues such as dizziness, headaches, and asthma. Even just a moldy smell can take away the enjoyment of being in the safety of our homes. We must have adequate ventilation to exchange contaminated air with fresh air but opening windows is not necessarily the solution to the problem. Many cities have unsatisfactory outdoor air quality so opening the windows is not such a good idea. However, what if we could have an HVAC system that cleans the air with energy recovery ventilation in addition to the HVAC system?

The installation of a new HVAC system is the first step to better indoor air quality. New ducts that are free from pet dander and mold (just to name a few negatives) will automatically give the home, cleaner and healthy air. An energy recovery ventilator in addition to the HVAC will give a balance of humidity in the summer and the winter. It’s so uncomfortable to wake up in the middle of the night with a dry mouth, especially if you forgot to bring up a bottle of water before getting into bed. On the flip side, you want to get away from the high humidity on a typical summer day and come into a house that is not full of moisture. Have your central air checked regularly and if it keeps breaking it may be time for a new system.

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