Air Conditioning – Not Just for Cooling

Typically, when people think of air conditioning, they think about it as a way to cool their homes or offices. But, air conditioning actually has many uses, beyond keeping you cool.

Air conditioning helps to:

  • Dehumidify the air. Air conditioning works by first removing moisture from the air and then cooling it
  • Reduce the incidence of mold and fungus. Combined dehumidification and lower temperatures reduce the growth of some molds and fungus by eliminating warm, moist areas in the home
  • Reduce allergy symptoms and spread of germs by circulating and filtering air
  • Keep wood products in the home from warping
  • Enable electronic equipment (computers, stereos, etc) to run better
  • Provide a healthier environment for your family, pets and plants.

Do-it-Yourself vs. Hiring A Contractor

There are advantages to installing equipment yourself, and there are advantages to hiring a contractor to install it for you.
When making your decision between the two, consider:

Do-it-Yourself – Advantages

  • Save hundreds or even thousands of dollars
  • Quality of workmanship known
  • Personal satisfaction of completing

    your own home project

Contractor – Advantages

  • Labor warranty provided by contractor
  • Professional installation
  • Someone else does the work

If you have a basic set of tools and you are comfortable performing mechanical home projects,
you will likely find installing most of the hundreds of equipment items
sold on our site a straightforward job.

To assist you, air conditioning kits, condensing units, and split-system heat pumps include a free one hour installation DVD. You can view a 4 minute sample video online. Or, see our online Step-by-Step Air Conditioning Installation Guide.
All products include manufacturer’s printed installation instructions. And our friendly staff of customer consultants will gladly answer any of your installation questions before or after your purchase.

The two exceptions to installing equipment yourself are:


  1. Furnaces

    – For safety reasons, have a professional install a furnace for you. Please

    click to read an important notice

    about this. We will help you find a contractor in your area to perform this work by personally contacting ten of them on your behalf after you make your equipment purchase. (To learn more about contractor assistance, please click here:

    Contractor Assistance

    .)

  2. Last 10% of central air conditioning and split-system heat pumps – If you choose to install this equipment yourself, the work consists of two primary parts: what you can do on your own, which is about 90% of the project, and what your local heating and air conditioning contractor should do for you. Due to laws pertaining to handling of Freon (R-22 refrigerant), as well as special tools needed, the completion of the project is to be done by an air conditioning professional. For more information on handling refrigerant, please click here. Assistance from a contractor for this equipment will cost you on average about $100 to $300 depending on the extent of the work that remains and local labor costs. We will help you find a contractor in your area to perform this work by personally contacting ten of them on your behalf after you make your equipment purchase. (To learn more about contractor assistance, please click here: Contractor Assistance.)

The bulk of the work, though, can be done by you, which translates into significant savings. This also typically ensures the job will be done as carefully (if not more so) than if it were done by a professional, since homeowners tend to take special care of their own home projects.

In conclusion, you have several money-saving options, depending on the equipment you buy and your own preferences. Buy direct from Alpine and your choices are:

  • Have a contractor do the complete installation
  • Have a contractor finish your installation
  • Have a contractor inspect and start up your self-installation
  • Perform the entire installation yourself

For whichever option you choose, though, when you buy direct from Alpine you can save hundreds or thousands of dollars on your heating and cooling equipment purchase and installation.

Notice to Texans

Selecting Air Conditioner Type

When selecting the type of air conditioner you will need there are two major decisions you will need to make:(1) whether to install a split system or a self-contained unit and (2) what type of split system or self-contained unit to install.

Step 1.Select a Split System or Self-Contained Unit

Central air conditioners come in the form of a split system or a self-contained unit.

Split system air conditioners have components that are installed both inside and outside the home. In a split system, the compressor and condenser coil (contained in a standard unit or heat pump), are installed outside the home, and the evaporator coil is installed inside the home in the plenum of a forced-air furnace or air handler. The indoor and outdoor components of a split-system are usually connected by two refrigeration lines and a low-voltage relay cable. Cold air is distributed through a duct system to each room in the home.

Self-contained air conditioners sit outside the home or on the roof and all components are contained internally. These fully self-contained furnaces and air conditioners are pre-charged with Freon and ready to be used for rooftop or ground mount residential or commercial applications. Like the split system, the self-contained units use a duct system to distribute cold air throughout the home.

Select a Split System if:
  • You are replacing a standard air conditioner, split system condenser

    And / or…
  • You have (or will be installing) a forced air furnace or air handler which is located inside the home, attic, crawlspace, basement, etc.
  • You have 220 volts AC available
Select a Self-Contained Unit if:
  • You are replacing a self-contained furnace / air conditioner

    And / or…
  • Your complete system will be located entirely outside the home on the ground or roof
  • You have 220 volts AC available

Step 2.Select the Type of Split System or Self-Contained Unit You Will Require

Self-Contained Air Conditioners

If you determined that you will require a self-contained air conditioner, the next step it to choose from three standard models:a standard furnace and condensing unit combination, a heat pump, or a condensing unit with optional electric heat.These three models contain all of the necessary central air conditioner components and sit entirely outside the home, on the ground or on the roof.

Select Gas Heat and Electric Air Conditioning – Self-Contained if:
  • You are replacing a self-contained furnace / air conditioner

    And / or…
  • Your complete system will be located entirely outside the home on the ground or roof
  • You want air conditioning and gas heat
  • Your available fuel type is natural gas or liquid Propane (LP)
  • You have 220 volts A/C available
Select Heat Pump Electric Heat and Air Condioning – Self-Contained if:
  • You are replacing a self-contained heat pump

    And / or…
  • Your complete system will be located entirely outside the home on the ground or roof
  • You would like equipment with very low operating costs for heating your home when the outside temperature is above 25 degrees. (A heat pump can be paired with a secondary source of heat for providing additional heat when temperatures are below 25 degrees.)
  • You want air conditioning and electric heat
  • You have 220 volts A/C available

Select Standard AC – Self-Contained if:
  • You are replacing a self-contained air conditioner

    And / or…
  • Your complete system will be located entirely outside the home on the ground or roof
  • You want air conditioning with the add-on option of electric heat
  • You have 220 volts A/C available

Split System Air Conditioners

If you determined that a split system will work best for you, the next step is to decide if you would like a standard split system or a heat pump split system.

A condensing unit is the main component of a standard split system.Inside it is a pump called a compressor, coils, fan and electrical system. When a standard air conditioning system (with a condensing unit) is operated, the condenser gets warm and the evaporator coil gets cold, which cools the home in summer.

With a heat pump, the same happens in summer, but in winter, the reverse occurs: the outside condenser gets cold and the inside evaporator coil inside the air handler gets warm, thereby heating the home. Heat pumps are a highly efficient method of heating your home when the outside temperature is above 25 degrees.If you live in an area where the temperature regularly falls below 25 degrees, a secondary heat source such as a gas, oil or propane furnace, or electric resistance heat (heater coils) is required to keep your home warm on the coldest days.Pairing the two heating systems together is called a two-stage heating system (or “hybrid” system), and is commonly done to achieve low operating costs.We will gladly help you select the appropriate two-stage heating equipment for your home.

When deciding between a standard system or heat pump, keep in mind the average temperatures in your area. If you live in an area where the temperature regularly falls below 25 degrees, a secondary heat source such as a gas, oil or propane furnace, or electric resistance heat (heater coils) is required to keep your home warm on the coldest days.

Select a Standard Unit if:
  • You are replacing a standard unit
  • You live in a climate where temperatures drop below 25 degrees F.
  • You want higher efficiency

Select a Heat Pump if:
  • You are replacing a heat pump
  • You have (or will be installing) an air handler which will be located inside the home, attic, crawlspace, basement, etc.
  • You would like equipment with very low operating costs for heating your home when the outside temperature is above 25 degrees.(A heat pump can be paired with a secondary source of heat for providing additional heat when temperatures are below 25 degrees.)
  • You are looking for the added benefit of heat in milder climates

Split system central air conditioners contain various components that must be matched up accordingly. We have a special System Selector to help you select all the right components. For more information on all the necessary components of a split system, see Selecting Air Conditioner Components.

In a split system, the compressor and condenser coil (contained in a standard unit or heat pump), are installed outside the home, and the evaporator coil is installed inside the home in the plenum of a forced-air furnace or air handler. The indoor and outdoor components of a split-system are usually connected by two refrigeration lines and a low-voltage relay cable.

Now that you know what type of central air system you would like it’s time to select the right-sized unit. See Selecting Air Conditioner Size for more information.

Compressors – The Heart of the AC System

Scroll Compressors Better Built with Higher Efficiency

At the heart of the air conditioning system is the compressor – it is the most expensive and vital component. The compressor is a mechanical pump driven by an electric motor. It lies within the condensing unit and is responsible for circulating and compressing refrigerant.

When selecting your air conditioning unit, understanding how the heart of the system works will be important in making your decision on which type to purchase.

All of our air conditioning equipment is equipped with either reciprocating or scroll compressors.

Reciprocating Compressors:

Our least expensive condensing units utilize reciprocating compressors. This compressor style is the workhorse of the air conditioning industry and has been used for many years. These compressors operate much like an automobile engine. They have one or more pistons driven from a crankshaft that is turned by a motor.

Scroll Compressors: Scroll compressors are the darling of the industry. Although the technology has been around since the early part of the 20th century, these compressors have just recently become popular. These compressors require only two parts to compress gas: a fixed scroll and orbiting scroll. Because of the lack of parts compared to a reciprocating compressor, the scroll compressor is 10 percent more efficient, is less likely to experience mechanical failure and operates both smoother and quieter.

Scroll compressors have superior tolerance to liquid refrigerant, unlike reciprocating compressors which run the risk of “liquid slugging” (liquid slugging means that there is too much liquid refrigerant in the system which makes it inefficient). Scroll compressors can also handle debris and foreign matter without being damaged. Our scroll compressors are made by Copeland – an exceptional company, well known in the industry for producing highly-engineered, solid compressors.

Hermetically Sealed: Both the reciprocating and scroll compressors are hermetic, meaning they are completely sealed. These compressors are small, compact and almost vibration- and noise-free. There is no crankshaft seal or belts that require replacement or adjustment. Hermetic compressors dominate the residential market because of their performance characteristics and high reliability.

Operating AC for Peak Efficiency

Tip:  Don’t Use or Buy More Cooling Capacity Than You Need

Overcooling your home can be expensive and waste energy.  Don’t use or buy more cooling capacity than you actually need.  Select an air conditioning unit with the lowest suitable capacity and highest efficiency.  An oversized air conditioner can leave rooms cold and clammy because it does not run long enough to dehumidify the air.  Oversized air conditioners also have a tendency to turn themselves on and off more frequently than properly sized units.

Tip: Keep the Equipment Clean

Ensure good air flow by keeping your condensing unit or heat pump free of debris.  These pieces of equipment are located outdoors and require significant air flow to properly function.  Clean the equipment at least once per year and regularly check to make sure leaves, grass and other debris are not creating blockage.

Tip:  Change Your Air Filter Regularly

Changing your air filter regularly is a simple, inexpensive way to keep your air conditioning unit running at peak efficiency.  The filter is located in your furnace, air handler or attached ducting.  This filter helps keep dust and other debris from sticking to the blower and air conditioning coils inside your home’s heat pump, air conditioner or furnace.  A dirty filter can block the flow of air, increasing operating costs and damaging the equipment.  Change your filter as often as recommended by the manufacturer.

Tip: Have the Indoor Coil Cleaned

The evaporator coil is located on the top or side of your furnace, and if you have an air handler, it is located inside the air handler.  Air flows across the coil to be cooled during the summer.  When the air conditioning is on, water collects on the coil.  The moisture on the coil can attract dirt, mold and other contaminants.  A dirty indoor coil can be unhealthy, wastes energy and cuts the capacity of the cooling equipment.  The coil should be cleaned every two to three years.  It is sometimes necessary to cut into the ductwork to reach the coil, so it is advisable to hire a contractor to perform this maintenance for you.

Tip: Properly Match Your Condensing Unit/Heat Pump to Your Evaporator Coil

Your air-conditioning or heat pump system consists of two main parts: an indoor evaporator coil and an outdoor condensing unit/heat pump. These two parts are specifically designed to work together as a coordinated “team” to provide top performance and maximum efficiency and comfort.

If you install a new high-efficiency condensing unit, but don’t include a new, equally efficient and properly matched evaporator coil, you could end up with an inefficient or dysfunctional system.  Check with a heating and air conditioning professional or call our technical support line at (800) 865-5931 to determine if your evaporator coil is properly matched to your condensing unit/heat pump.

Tip:  Shade the Outside Condensing Unit or Heat Pump

Condensers and heat pumps that sit in a shady area use up to ten percent less electricity than those in direct sunlight.

Tip:  Install a

Programmable Thermostat


Programmable thermostats

are recommended to help keep your energy bills low.  You can program these thermostats to automatically change temperature settings at night or when you are not at home.  Energy bills can be dramatically lowered by not running the air conditioner unnecessarily.

Tip:  Set Your Thermostat at 78 Degrees During the Summer

Keep your energy bills low by setting your thermostat no lower than 78 degrees during the summer.  You will still enjoy the comforts of air conditioning while not absorbing the high costs for energy consumption.  For each degree below that economy setting, your energy bills will creep up by eight percent on average.  That means, if you set the thermostat at 72 degrees, it’s costing 48 percent more to run!

Tip: Install Ceiling Fans to Help Circulate Cool Air in the Home

The thermostat reads the temperature in your home, but what about the wind chill factor?  Running a fan will help stir up the air in your home and make it feel 10 degrees cooler.  Ceiling fans work the best when they run in a counter-clockwise direction.  This causes them to blow air downward.

Tip:  Check Your Ductwork

Sealing ductwork can help reduce energy consumption by 10 to 30 percent.  Have a contractor inspect your ductwork for leaks.  Pay extra attention to the ductwork that runs through the attic, basement or other un-cooled spaces in your home.  Make sure the ductwork in these areas is properly insulated.

Tip:  Keep Your Doors and Windows Shut and Well Sealed

Do-it-yourself weather stripping for doors and caulking for windows is cheap and easy to install.  It pays to keep your house from leaking out cold air.

Tip:  Don’t Open Your Windows When the AC is Off

When we think of air conditioning, we think primarily of cooling. But a major comfort benefit besides cooling that air conditioning provides is dehumidification – removing moisture from the air. When the air is nice and dry in the summer, we feel comfortable. When the air is too humid, we feel clammy and uncomfortable. Removing moisture from the home’s air then is a major function of air conditioning.

Understanding how your air conditioner does this will help you to operate it for maximum efficiency and comfort.  When you first decide to turn on your air conditioning and it is hot and humid, and the home’s windows are open, there is a lot of moisture (water) in the air. When you close the windows and turn on the central air conditioning, the air conditioner will use about ½ of its energy initially to remove that moisture from the air while it cools. Because there is so much water in the air to remove at the start, the air conditioner will take longer to cool the house down, with only half of its energy going towards cooling.

However, after the air conditioner runs for a few hours, the majority of the moisture will be removed. At this point, the air conditioner can cool much more quickly, as well as run for shorter times to maintain that cool temperature.

For best use then, keep your windows closed in between air conditioning usage if you think you will need to use the air conditioning again soon. For example, if at the end of the day you were thinking of opening the windows for the night, but will need to turn on the air conditioning again in the morning, you might want to keep the windows closed and the AC on at night, too. Keeping the home closed once it has been dehumidified will mean the air conditioning can use most of its energy to cool the home, which will make it work faster as well as save money on electrical usage.

About Refrigerant

freon

Inside air conditioning systems is liquid/gas refrigerant.
There are two types of this refrigerant available for use,
R-22 (more commonly known by its brand name Freon),
and a new alternative R-410A.  Refrigerant is a substance which
absorbs heat by changing states (evaporating) from liquid to gas. It releases heat by changing
states (condensing) from gas back to liquid.
An air conditioning system does not consume refrigerant, but reuses it.
As long as there are no leaks in the refrigerant circuit, there is no need to ever add more
refrigerant to an air conditioning system.

Although R-22 is an effective refrigerant, if it is released into the atmosphere it can
contribute to the depletion of the Earth’s ozone layer.
The EPA has mandated the phasing out the use of R-22.
It is being replaced by the now-available R-410A.

As of 2010, manufacturer’s are required to make all new air conditioners with R-410A.
Units using R-22 are still available for sale. However, they no longer are sold containing
refrigerant, and will require your technician to fully charge the system after installation.
R-22 refrigerant is becoming increasingly expensive, and at the current and expected
future cost of R-22, it is often more cost effective to install equipment containing the new R-410A.
By 2020, R-22 will no longer be manufactured, but will still be recycled and available for sale.

  • R-22 will no longer be manufactured by 2020, but will be recycled and available for sale
    indefinitely beyond then.
  • Your system will not require R-22 to be added in the future if it doesn’t have leaks and you
    keep it properly serviced.

Handling Refrigerant – What You Can Do

As of 1993, R-22 refrigerant can only be handled by technicians who are EPA certified.

While 90 percent of an air conditioning installation can be performed by the average homeowner, if the equipment uses R-22 refrigerant, part of the installation requires the work of an EPA-certified technician.  This is mandated by federal law.

Any maintenance, service, repair, or disposal of equipment that could be reasonably expected to release R-22 refrigerants into the atmosphere by violating the integrity of the refrigerant circuit must be handled by an EPA-certified technician.

Only an EPA-certified technician can attach and detach hoses and gauges from your R-22 condensing unit to measure pressure within the appliance.   Only an EPA-certified technician can add or remove R-22 refrigerant from the system.  To service the compressor of a condensing unit, the refrigerant must first be captured and then recycled by an EPA-certified technician.

Activities such as painting the appliance, re-wiring an external electrical circuit, replacing insulation on a length of pipe, or tightening nuts and bolts on the appliance are not reasonably expected to violate the integrity of the refrigerant circuit and can be performed by a homeowner.

Need a contractor?  We’ll help you get one.

Click here

for details on our Contractor Assistance Program.

ac install

When installing central air, an EPA-certified technician will:

  • Pull vacuum on refrigerant lines with vacuum pump.
  • Release refrigerant into system, start up, and balance pressures.

 

It is recommended that you allow a skilled contractor to also:

  • Solder the copper refrigerant line connection(already mounted in place and connected by homeowner).
  • Connect high voltage wiring to main home circuit panel (wiring from circuit panel to condenser may be installed by homeowner).

For more information on installing central air and what aspects of the installation the average homeowner can and can’t perform, please click here

Handling Refrigerants Responsibly


(From the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Web site)

Along with prohibiting the production of ozone-depleting refrigerants, the Clean Air Act mandates the use of common sense in handling refrigerants. By containing and using refrigerants responsibly — that is by recovering, recycling, reclaiming, and reducing leaks — their ozone depletion and global warming consequences are minimized. The Clean Air Act outlines specific refrigerant containment and management practices for HVAC manufacturers, distributors, dealers and technicians. Properly installed home comfort systems rarely develop refrigerant leaks, and with proper servicing, a system using R-22, R-410A or another refrigerant will minimize its impact on the environment. While EPA does not mandate repairing or replacing small systems because of leaks, system leaks can not only harm the environment, but also result in increased maintenance costs.

One important thing a homeowner can do for the environment, regardless of the refrigerant used, is to select a reputable dealer that employs service technicians who are EPA-certified to handle refrigerants. Technicians often call this certification “Section 608 certification,” referring to the part of the Clean Air Act that requires minimizing releases of ozone-depleting chemicals from HVAC equipment.

To learn more on the subject from the United States Environmental Protection Agency, click here

Selecting Air Conditioner or Heat Pump Efficiency

As much as half of your annual utility bills can be spent on heating and cooling your home. You can save money on your electric bills while enjoying the same level of comfort by selecting an air conditioner or heat pump with a high efficiency rating.

Air conditioners and heat pumps have an efficiency rating called SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio). The higher the SEER number, the more electrically efficient the unit is. Higher efficiency air conditioners and heat pumps produce the same amount of cooling as lower efficiency units of the same size, while saving you money by using less electricity.

If you currently have an air conditioner or heat pump and would like to know what efficiency SEER you have, you can use this Efficiency Estimator Tool to find out.

We have several different SEER ratings for you to select from for your air conditioner or heat pump, from 13 SEER up to 18 SEER. The higher the SEER, the higher the initial investment cost of the equipment, but the lower the operating cost. Which SEER unit you decide to install is up to you. To help you select, you can use our Operating Cost Calculator to see how much you might save in operating costs by comparing different SEER units for your particular home.

All air conditioners and heat pumps are shipped from the factory with an EnergyGuide sticker which lists the official SEER rating. This rating is in accordance with standard US government testing.

Higher efficiency units may be ENERGY STAR® qualified. If a product has earned the ENERGY STAR, they meet strict energy efficiency guidelines set by the EPA and US Department of Energy. These products offer the same level of performance and features, and may be able to reduce utility bills due to lower energy consumption.