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The Ultimate Air Conditioning Guide
Everything you need to know about
Air Conditioners
If you’re like most Canadians, you know that much like our winters, our hot and humid summers can be extreme! When the weather is sweltering hot, you want to make sure you stay cool throughout the day and sleep comfortably at night – and that starts with choosing the right air conditioning system. Home air conditioning systems are more energy-efficient than ever before. If you’re looking to upgrade or replace your cooling system, the current AC options available can help keep you cool and save you money for years to come.
But where do you start? Selecting the right air conditioning system can seem like a daunting task. This guide is designed to help you navigate through the complex decision-making process and provide you with helpful information to help you select the right AC for you and your family.
This guide is intended for information purposes only. A qualified heating and cooling expert will be able to determine the ideal size and solution for your home and climate.

9 things this guide will answer

Different Air Conditioner Types

There are many great types of air conditioners available, but choosing the right option comes down to whichever best suits your family’s needs, living space and budget. The most common residential cooling options include:

 
Central AC Systems
Ductless Units
Heat Pump

Central Air Conditioners

What is Central Air Conditioning?

The most common way to cool a home is with a central air conditioning system. The system includes an external condenser unit that sits outside your home and expels heat as well as an evaporator coil, which generally sits above your furnace and cools the air within your home. Finally your furnace or air handle works with your AC using the fan to blow the chilled air through your home’s ductwork. As a central air conditioner is integrated with your furnace system, it can take advantage of the furnace filter and any additional air purifying equipment you have added. This helps to clean the air throughout your home.

How Does Central Air Conditioning Work?

A central air conditioner works by using your furnace or air handler fan to draw warm air in through your home’s ductwork. As the air is blown across the evaporator coil, which generally sits above your furnace, heat is removed from the air, cooling it down. The removed heat is absorbed into refrigerant running through the coil. This refrigerant is then pumped to the condenser, which is the part of your air conditioner that is outside of your home. The condenser expels this heat into the outside air, cooling the refrigerant, which is then sent back inside the home, to start the process over again.

 
Central AC Explained In 8 Steps
  1. As the temperature in your house rises beyond what you set on your thermostat, a signal is automatically sent from your thermostat to the circuit board in your furnace
  2. This tells the system that cold air is needed and turns on both the blower motor inside your house and the condenser, which sits outside your home.
  3. Warm air is then drawn into your ductwork and cooled as it passes over the evaporator coil above your furnace
  4. This cooled air is then returned to the home through the return air vents
  5. Meanwhile refrigerant in your air conditioner absorbs the heat from the air as it flows through the evaporator coil
  6. This heated refrigerant is then pumped to the condenser or outside portion of your air conditioner.
  7. The condenser blows outside air across a different set of coils, which removes the heat from your home that was absorbed by the refrigerant before the refrigerant is sent back into the home.
  8. This process continues until the desired set temperature is met.
What are the benefits of Central Air Conditioning?
Central air conditioners provide cooling to all rooms in the home, not just to select rooms. They also tend to be a more cost-effective solution to ductless AC.
 

MONEY SAVER TIP

A split-system air conditioner is the most cost-efficient central AC system if you already have a furnace in your home

Ductless Air Conditioners

What is a Ductless Split Air Conditioner?

This type of AC system does not use ductwork to distribute cool air. Some older homes don’t have the ductwork necessary for a modern ducted AC system. This is where a ductless system is useful.

A ductless split ductless system may have multiple heads or indoor units that cool the air. These units may be mounted on a wall, floor or even ceiling. Each head cools the air in the room where it’s installed, which will allow you to set different temperatures for each unit and room.

The condensate drain, refrigerant tubing and power cable runs between the indoor heads and the outdoor unit. A small hole in the exterior wall is required to run the conduit between the indoor and outdoor units.

 

Heat Pump

What is a Heat Pump?

Some of the air conditioners described above are also available in a variation of a traditional system known as a heat pump. But while an air conditioner can only move heat in one direction, out, a heat pump can be reversed and pump heat in either direction. It functions as both an air conditioner and a heater, which will allow you to heat and cool throughout the year without using your furnace until it gets really cold outside.

A heat pump runs on electricity and works seamlessly with your furnace. During the summer months, the heat pump operates like a traditional air conditioner to cool the home. During cooler months, the heat pump reverses the process to extract heat from the outside air and brings it inside the home to provide heat. Your furnace will automatically take overheating your home only once the temperature outside is too cold for the heat pump to function efficiently.

Heat pumps have been quite popular in milder climates where the temperature does not stay below freezing for extended periods. However, recent advancements in heat pump technology have made them effective even in colder climates.

In colder climates like Canada, geothermal heat pumps are popular. This type of heat pump extracts heat from the ground versus a traditional heat pump which extracts it from the air. The initial investment of a geothermal heat pump is higher than an air-sourcedair-source system. The installer for this system also requires specialized skills and experience. But the long-term energy savings can certainly be significant.air-source

How Does a Heat Pump Work?
  • Heat pumps function just like a traditional air conditioner, except the AC process can also be reversed to heat the home during the winter months
  • A central heat pump uses the same ductwork with a furnace fan to distribute warm air throughout the house
  • The compressor in the outside unit moves the refrigerant through the system
  • The heat pump also has a reversing valve that reverses the flow of refrigerant which switches the system to providing heat versus cooling
  • The heat pump also has an accumulator that allows the system to adjust the refrigerant charge automatically

 

 
Different Types of Heat Pumps

An air sourced central heat pump is a common type of heat pump installed in many homes across North America.

Air-Sourced Central Heat Pumps: An air-sourcedair-sourced central heat pump is a common type of heat pump installed in many homes across North America.

This type of heat pump relies on ductwork to circulate both heat and cool air in a house. Just like a central air conditioner, it contains two key units. The condenser is the outdoor unit and the indoor unit is called the evaporator coil. The refrigerant circulates between these two units. It functions just like a central AC when it absorbs heat and releases it outside. But it also works in reverse order, as it collects heat from the outside air and releases it inside the house.

Air-source heat pumps can now be used in colder climates, due to advancements in the technology. Their ability to dehumidify has also improved. This means your home will be more comfortable during those excessively humid summer days.

 

Ductless Split Heat Pumps: A ductless split heat pump (mini split) can be installed in homes that lack adequate ductwork. This type contains two key units. The outdoor unit, contains a condenser coil, compressor, and fan. The indoor unit is the head, which contains an evaporator coil and a fan. A ductless split system can have multiple heads to provide heat or cooling to various parts of your home.

The indoor heads can be installed on a wall, floor or ceiling. A remote control can be used to set and manage different desired temperatures in each room that contains a head. Refrigerant is circulated through tubing which connects the outdoor and indoor units.

One of the key advantages of split ductless systems is the energy savings when compared to ducted systems. One of the bigger disadvantages is the costs associated with installing a ductless split heat pump. It can get expensive to install multiple indoor units.

Aesthetically, newer models look better than older versions. But many homeowners do not like how the indoor head units look within their décor.

Geothermal Heat Pumps A Geothermal or ground-source heat pump operates in the same manner as an air-sourced heat pump, except instead of absorbing and expelling heat into the air, it does so into the ground. They use the earth and/or ground water to source heat. The more even temperatures found in the ground, allow this kind of heat pump to operate more efficiently during the hotter and colder days of the year.

 

The Benefits of Heat Pumps

  • A heat pump can both cool and heat your home
  • Heat pumps run on electricity and consequently may produce lower CO2 emissions than a furnace that burns natural gas. Most electricity in Canada is produced through non-carbon emitting sources, especially in British Columbia and Ontario.
  • Since your furnace won’t be running as much, you could significantly reduce your home’s CO2 emissions.
  • Energy savings – You can potentially reduce your energy bills due to higher efficiencies on the heat pump in milder weather
  • Flexibility – Shield yourself from increases in natural gas prices by giving yourself the choice of heating your home with either natural gas or electricity
  • Comfort – The temperature in your home could be more even and work on a more continuous basis vs. a  single stage furnace
  • Performance – Quiet-running heat pumps come with an ecobee smart thermostat. The ecobee switches automatically from your heat pump to your furnace when needed
  • Today’s heat pumps can heat your homes even when it’s below zero

MONEY SAVER TIP

Seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER) is a system by which central air conditioners are rated for energy efficiency. SEER is a ratio of the cooling output and the energy used by the system. The higher the SEER value the more efficient the system

What Type of Air Conditioner Do I Need?

To maximize the energy efficiency and lifetime of your outside air conditioning unit, keep the following recommendations in mind:

  • The outdoor unit should be 12 inches away from any object
  • Do not place the unit near hot areas or ones that experience frequent foot traffic
  • The unit should be placed on a level pad, elevated so that the condenser will avoid contact with heavy rain accumulation and snow during the winter thatthat

What Size Air Conditioner Do I Need?

A properly sized AC will provide you with the proper cooling and comfort levels throughout the summer. Whether you are looking to install a traditional split system central AC, a ductless split ,or heat pump, the size of unit you select is critical to ensure your living space is comfortable and energy costs are minimized.

 

,
Factors in selecting a proper air conditioning size:
  • How many bedrooms are there in your home?
  • What is the size of your home?
  • What type of windows do you have?
  • What are the insulators in your walls and your ceilings?
  • Consider factors on the outside – what is the exposure of your home? (sourthern or northern) ?
 
 
 
 

Where Should I Install My New Air Conditioner?

Where Should I Install The Outside Unit of My Air Conditioner or Heat Pump?

To maximize energy efficiency and lifetime of your outside air conditioning unit, keep the following recommendations in mind:

  • The outdoor unit should be 12 inches away from any object
  • Do not place the unit near hot areas or ones which experience frequent foot traffic
  • The unit should be placed on a level pad, elevated so that the condenser will avoid contact with heavy rain accumulation and snow during the winter
 
 
Where to Install a Wall-Mounted Indoor Air Conditioning Unit?

A ductless mini-split air conditioning system may have multiple indoor air handlers. Each handler will typically reside a separate room. Here are a few guidelines around where to position the wall-mounted AC units:

  • It should be at least 7 feet above your floor with at least 6 inches of space above the unit and on each side
  • At least 3 feet away from coaxial cables, electronics, Wifi modems and mobile devices to avoid the electrical noise associated with these devices
  • The integrity of the wall should be strong enough to support the unit for many years. Where possible fasten to a stud or two by four.
  • Position the unit away from direct sunlight or other heat sources like an oven
  • Ensure the unit is not obstructed by anything, like a large piece of furniture
 
 

HVAC Filters

Choosing and Replacing Filters

Air filters play an important role in your heating and cooling system. By preventing dirt and dust from entering your equipment, air filters help to ensure that your system isn’t putting in overtime to keep your home comfortable. These filters also help to remove pollutants from the air, maintain good air quality in your home, and make sure the air you and your family are breathing is cleaner.

To keep your system running smoothly and your air quality optimal, it’s important to make sure your filters are regularly maintained and replaced.

 

 
Choosing the right AC air filter

Depending on your home and the needs of your family, there are various air filters available to suit your needs. When selecting the right air filter for your home, you want to take into account the filter’s minimum efficiency reporting value (MERV) rating. The MERV rating give filters a score from between 1-20 that indicates the air filter’s ability to capture airborne particles while air is flowing through your cooling system. The higher the MERV rating, the smaller the particles the filter will capture before the air is circulated into your home. When you’re selecting a new air filter, it is recommended that your filter have a MERV rating of at least a 7.Beyond the ratings, there are several different types of air filters to consider when you are making your decision. The needs of your family, the number of pets in your home, and your budget can impact which is the right air filter for you. Below is a list of some of the most common types of residential air filters that you can choose from:

  • Fiberglass air filters – These filters are an economical option but only capture up to 20% of pollutants ranging from 3 to 10 microns and may not be as effective in improving your indoor air quality and should be replaced more often.
  • Electrostatic air filters – These filters contain self-charging paper fibers, which help to reduce the airborne irritants and allergensin your home’s air by attracting and trapping small particles.
  • Pleated air filters – Coming in at only a slightly higher cost than Fiberglass and Electrostatic air filter, pleated air filters are another great option. Made from polyester or cotton paper, these disposable filters capture between 70-90% of the dust and pollutants in your home from 3 to 10 microns in sizeand need to be replaced less often than Fiberglass filters.High-efficiency air filters – These filters are generally considered to be the most effective filters for a residential heating and cooling system. These filters can trap up to 95% of particles between 3 and 10 microns in size, including pollen, tiny dust particles and mold to help improve your home’s air quality.
 
 
What Are The Best AC Filters for Allergies?

If you or someone in your home frequently suffers from seasonal or airborne allergens, selecting the right air filter may help. When choosing your air filter, ensure that the filter has a MERV rating of at least a 7-12. A pleated or high-efficiency air filter will generally trap a higher percentage of particles and pollutants before the air is circulated throughout your home. You may also want to consider replacing your filters more frequently, at least once a month.

 
How to Replace My Air Conditioner Filter?

If you or someone in your home frequently suffers from seasonal or airborne allergens, selecting the right air filter may help. When choosing your air filter, ensure that the filter has a MERV rating of at least a 7-12. A pleated or high-efficiency air filter will generally trap a higher percentage of particles and pollutants before the air is circulated throughout your home. You may also want to consider replacing your filters more frequently, at least once a month.

  1. First you need to locate your old filter – In some cases the filter housing may live behind a main vent. In other cases you may find it behind your furnace. Don’t forget to turn off your unit before you remove the filter.
  2. Figure out what size and type you need – your old filter should have the size printed on the side of it. Match this with the size of your replacement filter. There are many different filter types. When selecting the right one for your home consider how long each type will last and what type of air filtration you and your family require.
  3. Install your new filter – insert your brand new filter into the filter housing and fasten the cover or snap it back into place. Ensure you insert the new filter is in the right direction. There should be an arrow pointing which way it needs to be inserted.
How to Clean My Air Conditioner Filter?

If you use a reusable air filter, it’s important that the filter is cleaned and maintained every 1-3 months to ensure unrestricted airflow and decrease the amount of particles in your air. To clean your reusable air filter, you can use a vacuum to remove the loose debris and then wash with warm water to clean the remaining dust and dirt. If it’s been a while since you last cleaned your filter or if there is a significant amount of build-up on the filter, you may want to consider cleaning it using a mild detergent with warm water. Once you’ve cleaned your filter, be sure to let it dry completely before reinstalling it in your heating and cooling system.

 
How often should I change my air filter?

The frequency in which you should be changing your air filter depends on a few factors in your home. The number of people living in the house, the number of pets you have, and if anyone in your home suffers from allergies, impacts how often you should be changing your indoor air filters. As a general rule, it’s recommended that you change your filter every 30-60 days for optimal air quality. If you have several pets in your home, or regularly suffer from severe allergies, you may want to consider replacing your air filters more often.