At PM-EXPO Orlando last Tuesday, we heard from a number of property managers who were having problems with their central air conditioning units as Florida’s summer heat causes the mercury to rise. Here’s a 10 point refresher to review before hiring an HVAC contractor in Florida:

1. How to I determine the best size for my HVAC system?

A number of factors need to be considered when sizing an HVAC to a building. A professional HVAC contractor uses a protocol called Manual J. Considerations include cubic feet, type of construction, insulation, average outdoor temperatures in summer and winter in your part of Florida, types of floors, windows and doors, how many people use the building, infiltration quality and whether or not there are fireplaces.

2. What exactly does S.E.E.R. mean?

S.E.E.R. stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. S.E.E.R. rates how much cooling an air conditioner will deliver per unit of electricity consumed – the higher the S.E.E.R., the more efficient the central air conditioner. Mid-range S.E.E.R. range from 13 – 17.

3. Does the tonnage of an HVAC system correspond to an amount of BTU’s?

Each ton of air conditioning and heating systems equals about 12,000 BTU.

4. Are there any simple things that I can do to make the HVAC work more efficiently?

Change filters regularly and use curtains, drapes or shutters to protect against the hot sun. Sun shading window film can also decrease stress on the AC.

5. How does the size of a central air conditioning system effect energy consumption and effectiveness?

Central air conditioning systems that are too small won’t keep the area cool enough but will use less energy – even if the air conditioner is running all the time. This is because a central air conditioner uses the most energy when it is cycling on.

An oversized central air conditioner will burn more energy, will cool sufficiently but will not control humidity well. The HVAC cycle will cool too quickly and not stay on long enough to reduce humidity.

6. How much cooler should the air cycled through the HVAC be than the outdoor air?

A central air will typically cool the air about 20 degrees lower than the outdoor air during the  Florida summer – after the air conditioner has been running 10 or 20 minutes. But if it is not very hot outdoors, the air produced may be only about 15 degrees cooler than outdoors. The more humid it is outside, the less the HVAC will cool the air.

7. What is the best temperature to set my thermostat during the Florida summer and winter?

It is usually recommended to set your thermostat between 78-80 during the hot Florida summer and that you set your heating system to about 68-70 during the winter.

8. What are the differences between electronic and mercury thermostats?

Electronic thermostats are more accurate than mercury-based thermostats. Programmable thermostats are most efficient because you can make different temperature settings for different times of the day.

9. What should I check before calling an HVAC company for service?

Make sure the breakers are on, the thermostat is correctly set and the the air handler is plugged in. People hate wasting money on service calls only to realize that they forgot to do something simple.

10. Is it a good idea to conserve energy by closing registers to areas that we do not use?

Closing registers is not advisable. Central air ductwork is designed to maximize efficiency with proper airflow. Closing registers will cause the central air to cycle more frequently.

“Sick buildings” can be a serious health hazard. Mold in the walls, especially below poorly installed windows or mold caused by slowly leaking pipes could be the cause. Mold infested air ducts or mold on other parts of an HVAC system could be the cause.

If it is not your walls or leaky plumbing, then it may make sense to hire a professional to remediate your HVAC. Central Air Conditioning in Florida’s humid climate can become infested with contaminants. Find Florida Duct Cleaners in your city.

Here are seven signs that your air ducts may need cleaning:

  1. People in the building are suffering from breathing problems, allergies, asthma attacks or any other respiratory ailments.
  2. There is a smoker in the building.
  3. The HVAC seems to cause a musty smell when it is on.
  4. Inhabitants are experiencing repeated sinus issues or nasal congestion in the mornings.
  5. Dogs or cats live in the home.
  6. Mold is visible in air ducts, near registers or returns, or at the air handler.
  7. If there is vermin infestation in metal ducts, you need to have the ducts cleaned and repaired.

Whatever the problem, you also need to address the cause in order to prevent the problem. If insulation gets wet and moldy, you will need to replace the insulation – insulation cannot be effectively cleaned by a professional Florida duct cleaner or anyone else.

Shedding pets, tobacco smoke, dust, spores, molds and moisture can enter your air ducts when the AC is running. Ductwork can breed more microbes and toxic spores over a period of time. The system blows the contaminants back into the living area, causing respiratory problems.

To learn more, read Florida Duct Cleaning FAQ.

If you have need of an HVAC contractor in Maryland, here is a list of 6 things to consider. We have written some things down for you, so that you are not shooting blind when it comes to reviewing and hiring contractors. Asking just a few questions could save you money, frustration, and time.

  1. Rebates – Ask your heating and air conditioning contractor about any products and services that they recommend who offer rebates or tax breaks. The state’s funds for rebates is all spent but ask about local rebates that might apply.The cost of energy is high in Maryland, and every penny counts. Check for Energy Star rating for heating, air conditioning and boiler equipment.
  2. And ask about warranties. What kind of warranty is there on the equipment, and what warranty will the contractor offer on service?
  3. License and Insurance Maryland Heating,Air Conditioning, Ventilation and RefrigerationContractors must be licensed and insured. You can verify Maryland HVAC license online.
  4. If you hire an unlicensed HVAC contractor and something goes wrong, you can be denied any insurance claims for either injury or property. Inspectors can actually make you take down any work down without a permit. Hiring a licensed contractor will give you peace of mind.
  5. Estimates – A qualified heating air conditioning contractor will inspect your property, rooms, and current ductwork and provide you with a detailed estimate. Make sure if you get more than one bid that they are using the same specifications.
  6. Ask for references Its not rude to ask for references or referrals from a contractor. A contractor who is experienced and has satisfied customers will be happy to provide you with this information. If theyre not, ask yourself why. And make sure to check them, too: Its not enough just to get them, you have to make sure that they are legitimate.

Your county or municipality may also require a permit for replacement of heating unit or anything structural. Ask your insurance agent about what types of insurance you should require from a heating contractor always make sure about workers compensation here.

Check their insurance Ask your insurance agent about any documentation that you need to require from your Heating Air Conditioning Contractor. You dont want to be liable for any damage that the contractor or his employees do to property or individuals. You can check Maryland Workers Compensation insurance with Maryland. This is important, as well. You dont want to be liable for any accidents that the contractor or his employees have while working. Your homeowners insurance may not pay, or they may raise your rates if this happens.

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