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COMFORTWAVE FAQ's

We know that our industry and the products in our industry are challenging to understand. There's just too much to know.  That's why we're at your service - to make your heating & cooling experience easier to understand. We have a wealth of information for you to review here, in our FAQ section.

This information only scratches the surface, but we feel its our job to give you advice and access to knowledge of HVAC products and services.  An informed customer is the best customer.  We've divided the FAQ's into three sections.

1. General HVAC F.A.Q's.  
2. Cooling related F.A.Q's.  
3. Heating related F.A.Q's.

We hope this information is helpful to you - and please don't hesitate to contact us by telephone at (905) 619-5000 with any questions or email us on the "Contact Us" page.

::::: General FAQs :::::

Should I repair or replace old heating or air conditioning equipment?
When you're frustrated with the breakdown of your gas furnace or air conditioner, it can be tempting to find the least expensive "quick fix" to get on with your life in relative comfort. That "quick fix" may be the least expensive now, but it many not give you the most value, or cost you the least in the long run. Paying for repairs to an old or inefficient heating or air conditioning system often simply prolongs the inevitable. It's almost like putting a bandage on a serious injury.   An older HVAC system that breaks down once is likely to break down again and again. That means more emergency heating and air conditioning service calls or, worse yet, the risk of damage to your home or to other components of your HVAC system. There's also an ongoing energy cost factor to consider. Restoring your old heating or air conditioning system will only bring it back to its current level of energy efficiency. After you've recovered from the repair bills and the frustration of system breakdowns, you still won't save on your energy bills. Even six-year-old air conditioners are considered inefficient by today's energy efficiency standards. So are most furnaces built before 1980. You could save up to 60 percent on your energy bills with new, high-efficiency equipment. That's why installing a new heating and air conditioning system can actually pay for itself in energy savings within a relatively short time.  

When do I know when it’s time to replace my system?
When the system starts giving you more problems than seem cost-effective to fix, particularly when major components start making unusual noises or otherwise indicating need for a service call. Talk to your contractor for their recommendation. Replacing a compressor is somewhat less expensive than replacing the entire unit, but new units may give you greater efficiency and lower operating costs in the long run.  

Is it better to let an existing system wear out before replacing it, or replacing it at some point before it wears out?
Because newer equipment usually is more energy efficient than older cooling systems, you might actually save money by replacing your old system before it completely wears out. Contact one of our product specialists and ask for an FREE estimate. In some cases, the money you save in reduced utility costs might pay back your purchase price of a new system years earlier than you might think.

How do I go about shopping for a new system?
Ask friends and neighbours about the types of systems they have, how much they cost, how long they’ve had them, and how satisfied they are with them. Then ask for recommendations as to brands and local contractors, or ask several different contractors to take a look at your home, evaluate your overall comfort needs, and recommend the best system for you. Look at all indoor climate control options – the entire spectrum of heating, cooling, air filtration and humidification equipment.        

How can I get a system that will have minimum operational costs?
Manufacturers publish equipment efficiency ratings that are available to your contractor. ARI (Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute) also publishes directories indicating various energy efficiency ratings of specific equipment. It is important that a contractor install a unit that has just the right capacity to cool your home. Units with excess capacity will cycle on and off and work less efficiently, thus increasing your operating costs. 

What percentage of my utility bill is caused by cooling?
It can be surprisingly small on an annual basis, but it depends on how much you use your air conditioning, how efficient your equipment is, and how much you conserve energy by actions ranging from insulating your home to keeping doors and windows closed when the system is operating. Your local electrical company is the best source for specifics in your area. 

 
How can I make my home more energy efficient?
Make sure all ductwork vent registers are not blocked by furniture.  Leave all interior doors open at least 2 inches if the room does not have its own return air intake vent.  Insulate your attic and ductwork.  Install solar screens, awnings, or plants to shade windows and walls during the summer months.  Keep heating and cooling filters clean and inspect them monthly.  Have your heating and cooling system thoroughly cleaned and tuned (not just a check-up) by a reputable company with certified technicians, such Comfortwave, at least twice a year.  Seal ductwork airtight.  Turn off all lights, fans, computer monitors, etc. when a room is unoccupied.  Consider replacing low efficiency incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs.  Replace old inefficient heating and cooling systems with new super-high efficiency models.  Always buy products with the Energy Star® label.

How can I control energy costs?
With energy costs soaring, there are a variety of steps you can take to cut the expenses of cooling your home. Cooling and heating equipment use more energy than any other appliance, but it's important to remember that energy costs can be controlled. 

Maintenance: One step to control energy costs is to schedule annual maintenance checks to make sure your unit is running properly and efficiently. Most home comfort systems require very little owner maintenance. However, operating dirty heating or cooling equipment can result in unnecessary loss of efficiency and can damage the unit. You play a vital role in making sure your system continues to operate at peak performance. 

High Efficiency: If you are in the market for a new home comfort system, consider purchasing a high-efficiency system. They can help reduce your energy costs as well as conserve our natural resources. When selecting a new home comfort system, pay close attention to the air conditioner SEER rating and the AFUE rating of the furnace. 

Zoning: Zoning can drastically lower your heating costs. With zoning, you no longer have to pay to heat or cool areas of your home that are rarely used. You won't have to heat or cool the whole house just to make one room comfortable. Zoning divides your home into separate comfort areas, which are heated or cooled based on your needs. 

Programmable Thermostats: Programmable thermostats can make a big difference in energy consumption. These thermostats deliver maximum comfort, efficiency and energy savings. Programmable thermostats are used to achieve the temperature you want throughout your home. For example, if you're going to be away, you can set the whole house at an energy-saving temperature to avoid heating or cooling an empty house. You can then program them to have your living areas comfortable by the time you arrive back home.

Is sound an issue with my furnace or air conditioner?
The louder the better doesn't necessarily hold true for heating and cooling equipment. Heating and cooling equipment should offer maximum comfort with minimum noise. Fortunately, today's technology has enabled manufacturers to produce air conditioners and heat pumps that are not only highly efficient, but also exceptionally quiet. Although no financial savings are tied to lower sound levels, the sound rating of a cooling system can have a considerable effect on comfort. The sound level of an air conditioner or heat pump depends on a variety of factors. The age of the unit and whether the compressor is insulated or not can contribute to the amount of noise it makes. Although most heating and cooling systems manufactured today are quieter than ever before, it's a good idea to compare sound ratings when shopping for a new air conditioner or heat pump. Great differences in the sound levels of products on the market today can make all the difference in just how comfortable you can be at home.

GENERAL INDUSTRY TERMS HVAC - Heating, ventilating and air conditioning. This term applies both to the heating and cooling industry and to the products they manufacture. ARI - Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute. A non-profit, voluntary organization comprised of HVAC manufacturers. ARI publishes standards for testing and rating heat pumps and air conditioners and ensures a level of quality within the industry. DOE - The Department of Energy. This is the federal agency that sets the HVAC industry efficiency standards. Btu - British thermal unit. This is the amount of heat that will raise or lower the temperature of one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit. Btuh - British thermal units per hour. A measure of heat transfer rate. COP - Coefficient of Performance. This is a measurement of comparison of a heat pump’s heating capacity to the amount of electricity required to operate it. Since a heat pump is less efficient at lower outside temperatures, the COP falls as the temperature drops. To aid you in comparing efficiency, ARI provides the COP for two temperatures, 47° F and 17° F. Ton - A ton is 12,000 Btuh. A typical single family residence uses air conditioning or heat pumps ranging between two and five tons of capacity. Watt - (W). A unit of electrical power. Kilowatt - (kW). One thousand watts. KWh - Kilowatt-hour. A unit of electrical energy equal to the work done by one kilowatt acting for one hour.

 

::::: Cooling FAQs :::::

WHAT DO ALL THOSE HEAT PUMP AND AIR CONDITIONER RATINGS MEAN?
Q: What do all those heat pump and air conditioner ratings mean?
A: It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the array of efficiency ratings, abbreviations and acronyms used to describe or explain heat pumps and air conditioners! In this fact sheet, we’ll tell you what they all mean and how you can use the knowledge gained to make a more informed choice on your comfort needs.

EFFICIENCY RATINGS
SEER - Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. This is a system for rating the efficiency of cooling equipment. It is calculated by dividing the cooling capacity of a continuously operating air conditioner by the electric power input. The higher the SEER, the less your unit will cost to operate.

HSPF - Heating Seasonal Performance Factor. This measurement is similar to SEER, but it measures the efficiency of the heating portion of your heat pump. Like the SEER, HSPF industry minimums have risen in recent years. The current industry minimum is 6.80 HSPF.

SOUND RATINGS
In recent years, HVAC equipment has not only gotten more energy efficient, it has gotten quieter. Although sound does not affect the efficiency of a unit, it can certainly affect your comfort. If your unit has a low sound level, you (and your neighbors) will hardly notice when it is operating.

db - Decibel. A term to describe the relative loudness of a sound. Typically, heat pumps and air conditioners are between the sound of a human voice (70 db) and a blender (88 db).

SRN - Sound Rating Number. A unit based on ARI tests. Average sound ratings range from 74 to 80 db. The lower the SRN rating, the quieter the unit.

COMFORT SYSTEMS
Heat pumps and air conditioner systems have an outdoor unit and an indoor unit. The outdoor unit is the actual heat pump or air conditioner. The indoor unit includes the coil or blower coil. Combinations of various units result in vastly different efficiency ratings.

Most Popular Coil - A term meaning the highest sales volume indoor unit matched with the given outdoor unit. Sometimes, there are attempts to combine unrealistic indoor and outdoor equipment combinations to obtain a higher SEER. Ratings made in such a way may be simulated or unrealistic. Ratings obtained using the most popular coil, however, are attainable and closer to reality.

THE PRICE OF QUALITY
There is more to buying a heat pump or air conditioner than ratings. The quality of construction and materials used as well as the reliability of the manufacturer and installing contractor can all affect your long-term satisfaction and comfort. Top quality, high-efficiency equipment will cost more initially, but it will save you money on utility bills and service calls for years to come. Be sure to weigh all the factors before choosing your new system.
Comfortwave offers a full line of top quality, high-efficiency heat pumps and air conditioners to meet any comfort needs. Let Comfortwave recommend the best system for your home and lifestyle.

I’ve Been Hearing a Lot about Ductless Split and Mini-Split Air Conditioning Systems. What Are They?

Ductless split and mini split air conditioners are made up of two parts, much like a conventional air conditioning system. However, the outdoor compressor and indoor wall-mounted units are connected to each other only by a refrigerant line rather than the more traditional ductwork. That means that mini-split systems are much easier to install in places that don’t already have ductwork or where it wouldn’t be practical to try and fit ducts in. The other main difference between ductless air conditioning units and other types of central air conditioning systems is that the indoor unit mounted on the wall or the ceiling in your room is where the actual cooling takes place. You can adjust the temperature in the room directly from there, giving you a much more refined control over your indoor conditions.

Is a Ductless Split Air Conditioning System Right for Me?

Ductless splits are a good option for a lot of people, particularly those who don’t already have ducts in place in their home. You may also want to look into a mini-split system if you’ve recently added an addition onto your home and don’t want to have to pay to extend the ducts from the rest of your house into the addition.

How Long Will My New Air Conditioning System Last?

While the life expectancy of a new air conditioning system can vary a good deal from one brand and model to another, most new systems being installed these days can be expected to last from 10 to 15 years. However, this will still depend on how much you use your system and how well you keep it maintained over the years. In fact, some air conditioners that receive proper maintenance can even exceed their projected lifespan by several years.

When Should I Replace My Old Air Conditioning System?

There are actually several situations in which you should consider replacing your current air conditioning system. For instance, if you have to call for repairs for your current system repeatedly, your system probably doesn’t have many good years left. And even if the repairs are relatively minor, they’re still costing you money every time you have someone come out.

Rather than continuing to dump money into a system that probably isn’t working all that efficiently to begin with, it makes much more sense to simply invest in a new system now. You’ll start saving right away on your energy bills and you won’t have to worry about whether or not your air conditioner is going to work on any given day.

You many even want to consider replacing an older air conditioning system that’s still working fine because newer models are so much more energy efficient than even those installed 10 years ago. Since you’ll likely have to replace your AC in a few years anyway, you’re better of investing in a new system now so that you can start saving on your energy bills right away.

What size air conditioner do I need for my house?

Sizing a residential heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) system depends on such variables as geographic location, orientation to the sun, construction details, insulation values, window area and type, etc. If you choose an air conditioner that is too small, that may lead to warmer or cooler temperatures than desired by some occupants. Oversizing the system may lead to humidity or moisture control problems in the space.

How do I keep my cooling costs to a minimum?

• Caulk, weather-strip, and insulate (especially the attic) to close air gaps
• Plan hot work (washing and drying clothes, baking, cooking) for cooler morning and evening hours
• Pull drapes and shades over windows facing the sun
• Keep windows and doors closed when the air conditioning is on
• Use a thermostat control to automatically increases or decrease home temperatures for daytime / night time differences to save money
• Set thermostat control at highest comfortable level – each degree raised reduces energy consumption by 3-4 percent
• Clean or replace air filters regularly
• With a new system, consider a service contract for a specified period of time
• Keep the outside unit free of leaves or other airflow obstructions
• Have the air conditioning unit cleaned each spring

How does an air conditioner work?


An air conditioner transfers heat from the inside of a house / building, where it is not wanted, to the outside. Refrigerant in the system absorbs the excess heat and is pumped through a closed system of piping to an outside coil. A fan blows outside air over the hot coil, transferring heat from the refrigerant to the outdoor air. Because the heat is removed from the indoor air, the indoor area is cooled.

Is central, attic based, or ductless air conditioning better than window units?


This depends largely on individual circumstances: for example, how large is the area to be cooled, how large is the family, what temperatures are required, how well is the house insulated, where is the house located etc. Central and attic based systems require internal ducting. Ductless units require wall space. In most circumstances, if more than three rooms need cooling, it is best to consider a central or attic based system. By examining your house our sales team will be able to advise you about the best solution for your house.

Should I augment my central air conditioning with other air conditioners?


If you need to use other air conditioners with a central system, your system is probably undersized or the air distribution system is imbalanced. Typically, a central system does not have a big enough fan to push dense cold air up beyond the second floor – in this circumstance a ductless system may be required. Ductless systems can also be installed in sunrooms or other additions that may lack air ducts.

What is the average life of a central or attic pak air conditioning system?


This depends on how much the system is used and how regularly it is checked or serviced. Generally, the average life of cooling units built in the 1970s and 1980s is about 15 years, but individual units may vary and last longer, depending on use and how well they are maintained. Newer cooling units are expected to last much longer.

What should I do in advance to make sure my cooling system will work efficiently this summer?


The main thing is to have the system checked each year before the peak-cooling season by a qualified service technician. Then, remember to keep the air filter clean and the outdoor unit free of leaves and debris.

How easy is it to install a cooling system in an older home?


It is often fairly simple to design a cooling system for an older home. If there is existing ductwork connected to your furnace a central system may be added. For homes that have hot water heating or electric heating an attic pak or ductless split system may be the answer. An important consideration is how well the older home is sealed and insulated.


::::: Heating FAQs :::::

WHY SHOULD I CHOOSE A VARIABLE-SPEED UNIT?

Q: Why should I choose a variable-speed unit?

A: The term “variable-speed” refers to the furnace indoor air blower motor. The blower motor is the component that determines the amount of air the blower is required to deliver to your home.

How does it work?

When your furnace is installed, the speed and airflow for your home is set (depending upon your specific situation, layout and size of your home.) Think of variable-speed technology as your insurance for home comfort the way you prefer it. The variable-speed technology ensures that your home receives the amount of air required to keep you and your family comfortable. Variable-speed motors have intelligent technology that monitor incoming data from the blower and adjust accordingly so you can feel confident that your system is working as it should.

Why Should I Buy a Unit with a Variable-Speed Motor?

Having the technology of variable-speed in your furnace offers many benefits: electrical Efficiency Variable-speed motors can actually save you money on your energy bill as they consume less electricity than standard motors.

Cooling efficiency

Having a variable-speed furnace as part of your home’s comfort system means you will gain air conditioning efficiency or SEER. The higher the SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) the more energy efficient the unit, the more money you can save.

Air Quality

A variable-speed motor combined with a humidistat, allows you to control the humidity in your home. Humidity plays a big role not only in the comfort of your home but also its air quality. The relative humidity in the average home should be between 30-60%. This range is most ideal to minimize growth of biological pollutants such as mold and mildew.
And the consistent airflow of the variable-speed motor helps to improve air filtration and even heat/cooling distrubtion.

WHAT’S THE ADVANTAGE OF TWO-STAGE HEATING?

WHAT IS TWO-STAGE HEATING?

Traditional furnaces are designed to heat your home, and keep you warm during the coldest weather in your climate, therefore, they operate at one level — high. However, even during winter, temperatures fluctuate and many winter days can be somewhat mild.

Unlike traditional furnaces that turn on and run at full capacity with each demand for heating, two-stage furnaces operate like two separate furnaces to maintain more consistent comfort in your home. The unit starts out running in its first stage, and operates at about 68% of its heating capacity. This reduced capacity is sufficient to warm your home on mild winter days. But when the temperature outside really drops, the furnace adjusts to full capacity (second stage) to meet the demand for heat within the home. It’s kind of like having two furnaces for the price of one. With two-stage heating you won’t have to keep adjusting the thermostat.

 

WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES OF TWO-STAGE HEATING?

Consistent Comfort: Thanks to two-stage technology, the temperature inside your home should vary only a few degrees versus the larger temperature swings that are common with traditional furnaces.

Quiet Comfort: Because a two-stage furnace starts in its first stage, when the level and amount of heat required is lower, and runs in this stage the majority of the time, it greatly reduces the noise associated with furnaces that turn on and run

full blast. Two-stage technology means quiet comfort.

Improved Air Filtration: A two-stage furnace provides more consistent airflow and with more consistent airflow comes improved air filtration, which means you’ll breathe easier with two-stage heating.

Efficient Operation: Because the furnace spends the majority of its time operating in its lower capacity, first stage, it burns less fuel than a traditional furnace that always runs at full capacity and then shuts off when heating demand is met.

DO I NEED A TWO STAGE?

Ask yourself these questions:
• How much time do you and your family spend inside your home?
• Did you take time and care to pick furniture, appliances, and other items that met your lifestyle and made you feel comfortable?
• Then why wouldn’t you do the same thing with your heating equipment?

Although you can’t see the air and temperature within your home you certainly can feel it. It affects you every day. A two-stage furnace can provide preferred comfort within your home despite the range of weather outside your home.
If you want and expect high-level performance from your heating equipment then a two-stage furnace is the right choice for you!

WHAT ARE FURNACE RATINGS?

Q: What are furnace ratings?

A: Furnaces are rated by the Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency ratio (AFUE), which is the percent of heat produced for every dollar of fuel consumed. Like the miles per gallon on you car, the higher the AFUE rating, the lower your fuel costs. All furnaces manufactured must meet at least 78% AFUE. If your furnace is 10 to 15 years old, it probably falls well below the current furnace minimum and wastes energy.

WHAT DOES THIS RATING MEAN?

The AFUE rating shows the efficiency of a particular furnace. Your contractor can determine your potential cost savings for your fuel costs, annual usage and efficiency.

The AFUE rating provides consumers with one consistent number for comparison. Essentially, the ICS test compares “apples to apples.” That is, all furnaces are tested equally. Manufacturers determine AFUE ratings by testing furnaces under set conditions for various lengths of time. The conditions were determined by the DOE to simulate an average home setting.

DOES THE HIGHEST AFUE RATING MEATING IT, MAKE IT FOR ME?

The efficiency rating is just one factor to consider when looking at new furnaces. Furnaces use electricity to run fans and motors. The amount of electricity used varies greatly, depending on the type of furnace. Be sure to check electricity usage before making a purchase decision.

Other important factors to consider include:

• How long you plan to live in your house
• Special comfort needs
• Fuel availability
• Fuel cost
• Geographic area and climate

All these factors, plus your lifestyle and family needs, add up to show you which system is best for you.

WILL MY NEW FURNACE WORK DIFFERENTLY THAN MY OLD ONE?

Q: Will my new furnace work differently than my old one?

A: When you install a new indoor comfort system in your home, you’ll probably notice it operates differently than your old system. Radical changes have taken place in the technology of the comfort industry in recent years. These changes will affect how your system operates, and also may affect what you notice about your system.

HIGH EFFICIENCIES

Higher efficiencies in furnaces and air conditioners have become increasingly important over the past few years. Consumers, government agencies, and manufacturers all see higher efficiencies as a way to conserve our natural resources while reducing consumer energy costs. Today, furnaces are designed with high-efficiency in mind. To achieve higher efficiencies, new gas furnaces must move more air over the heat exchanger than older furnaces so that as much heat as possible can be sent throughout the house.
The air that comes out of your furnace registers may not seem as warm as with your old furnace, but it will heat your house just as well. In fact, better airflow can improve overall comfort by reducing air temperature differences from the ceiling to the floor, throughout your entire home.

ADD-ON AIR CONDITIONING

Modern furnaces are designed to handle high-efficiency air conditioners and must have blowers that are efficient yet powerful enough to accommodate the add-on cooling. Since cold air is much heavier than warm air, your system needs an extra boost from the blower to get cool air throughout your home to provide you with efficient total comfort during the summer. Higher airflows required for cooling operation can contribute to unfamiliar sound levels when your new furnace is operating, because in older homes air duct systems were designed for heating only. Most products have multiple speed settings to allow for the varying air needs of both heating and cooling cycles.

How Long do Heating Systems Last?

The amount of time you can expect your heating system to last will depend on what type of system it is. In general, a new heating system you purchase today will last you on average 15 years. Keeping up with regular maintenance is one way to extend the life of your home heating system.

How do I Choose the Best Heating System for My House?

Some of the factors to consider are:
• Available fuel source
• Size and sqaure footage of your home
• What type of system you are replacing
• What are the particular heating needs of your family

It can be helpful to get some professional advice and guidance so that you can get a better idea of what your options really are. A Comfortwave specialist can assist you by walking you through the selection process.

When is the best time to replace a furnace?

There are many factors involved in determining the best time to replace a furnace, such as its current operating efficiency, condition, make, model and the age of the furnace. On average every 10 years or so, efficiencies in furnace energy consumption for home heating equipment advance enough to warrant the utility savings a new furnace can bring.

The only way to really know the best time to replace your furnace is to have an HVAC inspection and energy analysis performed on your heating and cooling system. Comfortwave offers this service as part of any appointment, and may help you decide the time is right. A Comfortwave specialist will help guide you through all the options available.

What size furnace do I need?

A trained Comfortwave HVAC specialist knows all the standards and can evaluate your home for not only the heating appliance, but also the quality of the heated air, and how well the air is distributed in the home. This home heating evaluation, includes taking into consideration any changes that may have been done sine the last furnace was installed.




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