Frequently Asked Questions

If you have a home with an existing forced air heating and cooling system that doesn’t effectively serve certain spaces of your home, a ductless split system might be the perfect solution. AL’s Cooling and Heating is an authorized installer of Mitsubishi’s wall-mounted ductless HVAC systems. These systems are quicker and easier to install than conventional central systems and offer a wide range of models that can meet the requirements of almost any space. Additionally, Mitsubishi ductless systems are back by the industry’s best warranty. Mitsubishi ductless mini-splits consist of an outdoor condensing unit that connects two refrigerant lines to as many as eight indoor units, providing efficient and customizable temperature control for a single zone or your entire home. The components of ductless systems are smaller “mini” when compared to conventional systems. The indoor and outdoor units communicate with each other constantly, relaying current conditions and adjusting performance to maintain your desired temperature. Mitsubishi mini-splits get an added boost of efficiency thanks to inverter compressor technology. This variable-speed technology conserves energy by allowing the compressor motor to ramp up or down to maintained the desired temperature. Many conventional  eating and cooling systems run on a basic on/off cycle that is often energy wasting and noisy.
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Tired of running out of hot water? Want to reduce your energy bill? Both are possible with the installation of a tankless hot water heater. The way most households currently heat water is incredibly wasteful. We fill up 40 to 50 gallon storage tanks and then pour energy into them continuously to make sure we have hot water whenever we want it. But often it doesn’t work that way, if the tank empties, due to a long shower, etc., it can take a long time to reheat. Tankless water heaters only generate hot water when you need it, saving 25-50% in fuel costs over tank-type heaters. Additionally, most tank water heaters generally fail in 8 to 12 years, while gas burning tankless water heaters should operate for 20 years or more.
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If your home has a boiler located in close proximity to a tank water heater, an indirect water heater is a great option to improve your home’s efficiency. Indirect water heaters utilize your homes heating water from the boiler to heat the domestic hot water you use in your home. Conventional hot water heaters are only about 50% efficient, so for every $100 spent on gas for the water heater, $50 goes out the chimney/flue. An indirect-fired water heater doesn’t have a vent and is 99.9% efficient. Additionally, an indirect water heater is composed of stainless steel and has no mechanical parts that can break, so it can easily last twice as long as a conventional tank water heater.
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Boiler technology has changed significantly in the past 10 years. Most older cast iron and sectional boilers are less than 80% efficient and don’t modulate to meet changing heating needs. A new high-efficiency boiler often has between 10-15 heating stages, and can modulate output to meet heating demand. Additionally, high-efficiency boilers can translate to significant energy savings. For example, say your current boiler has an efficiency rating of 70% AFUE, and you pay about $1400 a year in fuel heating bills. If you upgrade to a 90% AFUE boiler, you can expect to save about 20% on your heating costs, or about $280 a year. Plus, by using less natural gas, you are reducing your carbon footprint!
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Another company has condemned my heat exchanger, what should I do? Is my heat exchanger actually bad? These are great questions. Heat exchangers for residential forced air furnaces are metal and provide a sealed barrier between the flame and combustion gases generated by the burners in your furnace, and the air in your house that is heated. Over time, the heat exchanger metal can corrode and crack. When this happens, dangerous combustion gases, such as carbon monoxide can escape into the air in your home. Heat exchangers are often very difficult to inspect visually without the use of a special camera or disassembling the furnace. If you have questions about the integrity of the heat exchanger in your furnace there are some simple tests that can be performed. The standing flame test is simple to perform and is accurate. Steps for conducting the standing flame test:
  • Set the thermostat to only run the furnace fan/blower.
  • Set the thermostat to only run the furnace fan/blower.
  • Shut of the gas to the furnace.
  • With only the furnace fan blowing, hold a lighter in front of each of the heat exchanger burner inlets.
  • If the lighter consistently flickers in front of one, or all, of the burners, this is indicative of a cracked/failed heat exchanger, as this demonstrates that blower air is penetrating what should be the sealed surface of the heat exchanger.
If you have questions about a heat exchanger issue/diagnosis, and don’t feel comfortable performing this test, consult a qualified HVAC technician and ask them to perform it for you.
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Even if your old HVAC system is still working, you can save up to $550 on energy costs each year by upgrading to a more efficient system. These energy savings can translate to a short payback period on your new equipment investment. Additionally, Nicor, Peoples Gas, and ComEd offer rebate programs for upgrades to high-efficiency equipment.
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There are several things to consider when evaluating whether to repair or replace your HVAC system? The following rule of thumb provides a good baseline when faced with a repair cost. Follow the $6,000 rule. Take the age of the equipment and multiply that by the repair cost. If the number is more than $6,000 you should consider replacing your unit. From an efficiency standpoint you should generally consider replacing your furnace or air conditioner if the following apply: Replace your air conditioner:
  • If it’s over 15 years old
  • It is rated 10 SEER or less
  • It uses R22 refrigerant
  • It needs frequent repairs
Replace your furnace:
  • If it’s over 15 years old
  • Is rated at 80% efficiency or less
  • It needs frequent repairs
 
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It is recommended that the following components of your HVAC system should be inspected and cleaned annually. Filters - Filters should be checked at least monthly, and changed, at a minimum, every three months. Typically, the lowest MERV pleated filter, is the best filter option for most homeowners. For sensitive individuals, or allergy sufferers, a high MERV filter can be used; however, these filters have the potential to cause air flow issues so it is often best to consultant an HVAC professional before making the change. Humidifier – Humidifier pads should be changed annually. Often, one season of use, is enough to leave a significant amount of scale on the pad necessitating it’s change. Condenser - The condenser should be cleaned with water and a neutral cleaning agent annually. Overtime, without cleaning, cottonwood and other debris will obstruct condenser air flow, leading to a reduction in system capacity. Furnace – For high-efficiency furnaces, all condensate tubing, and the condensate trap, should be removed and cleaned annually. Additionally, the furnace burners should be inspected and cleaned each year.
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Bypass humidifiers use the blower from your HVAC unit to move air across an evaporative pad on the humidifier and require additional round ductwork to install. Fan Powered humidifiers use a fan built into the humidifier to move air across the evaporative pad in the humidifier. Both styles of humidifiers are effective at keeping your home at a comfortable humidity level. Additionally, several manufacturers offer residential steam humidifiers.
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Standard efficiency units transfer less heat to the airstream than their high-efficiency counterparts. As a result, more heat exhausts through the flue. Because of these hotter flue temperatures, standard efficiency units have to be vented with metal flue piping, while high-efficiency furnaces can use PVC flue venting. High-efficiency units gain their extra efficiency, by adding a secondary heat exchanger that allows for greater heat transfer to the airstream. Standard efficiency units are typically referred to as 80% units, meaning that 80% of the heat generated from the fuel being burned, is transferred to the airstream. High-efficiency units can range anywhere from 90% to 97.5% efficient at transferring heat to the airstream.
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Ductless systems are similar to a standard forced air system in that they use refrigerant to absorb heat, and transfer that heat to an area where it is not wanted, to the outside air. Ductless systems are a versatile option that allows for the heating or cooling of a single or multiple rooms without the hassle of adding ductwork.
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An air conditioner uses refrigerant to absorb heat from the air flowing across a heat exchanger (an evaporator) and transferring this heat to an outside heat exchanger (a condenser) and discharging the absorbed heat to the outside air.
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