Sonoma, Napa and Marin Counties
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We are committed to providing the best installations in the industry. Keeping your air conditioner well maintained is essential to getting the maximum life out of the unit. Our Residential Air Conditioning technicians are qualified to service all makes and models of cooling systems.
We are a family-owned and managed company, serving residential and business customers in the Santa Rosa, Napa and Sonoma areas. Owner Bryan Simning grew up in the area and understands the special cooling needs of Northern California home and business owners.
24/7 – our emergency service will take your call anytime. Our staff of factory—trained technicians have the expertise to install and repair residential air conditioning equipment of any make or model, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
10 Percent Senior Discount!
We offer a 10 percent senior discount on A/C service calls as well as a variety of service agreements, so you’ll know exactly what you’ll be paying for your annual maintenance call.
Everything to Know About Air Conditioning
There’s no technological advancement we love more than the air conditioner. With ACS in our homes, our cars, our workplaces and nearly everywhere we go in public, it’s safe to say we depend heavily on them to remain comfortable no matter the weather outside.
How Does It All Work?
Understanding your air conditioner not only makes it easier to maintain, but it can simplify the process of recognizing when a problem is developing.
So, What Do You Need to Know?
Table of Contents
- What Is Air Conditioning?
- The History Of Air Conditioning
- How Different Cooling Systems Work
- Energy Transfer: What’s EER?
- Air Conditioner Maintenance
- Humidity Control
- Health Factors
- What Is The Best Setting For Your AC Thermostat?
- AC Installation Types
- Ten Essential Things To Know About Your Air Conditioner
- Valley Comfort Cooling Services
1. What Is Air Conditioning?
At its most basic, air conditioning is simply a way to alter the temperature of the ambient air within a space. Air conditioners don’t create cold air to blow into your home, though In fact, it’s just the opposite; outside air doesn’t enter your home through the AC system.
Even when air already feels cool, there is still heat present — air conditioners work by extracting this heat and allowing it to escape outdoors.
Instead, the physical principles at work remove heat from the air, chilling it in the process.
Throughout history, this has been achieved through a variety of means, discussed below. Today, it typically refers to various forms of a “split or central system,” where some components are located indoors while others sit outdoors. This separation is necessary for the proper operation of the refrigerant cycle.
2. History Of Residential Air Conditioning
Though modern air conditioning only began its journey in the mid-19th century, the reality is humans have sought ways to make the air around them cooler and more comfortable for thousands of years.
For example, it’s easy to call many forms of evaporative cooling found in history the forerunners of today’s AC.
What Is Evaporative Cooling?
Numerous inventors and scientists, including Michael Faraday discovered that compressing a liquid and then allowing it to evaporate could achieve a cooling effect. Early compressor systems were difficult to power, inefficient, and mostly put to the purpose of making ice. However, it laid important groundwork.
That groundwork was built upon by Willis Carrier in the early 20th century who pioneered electrical cooling – the process we know today. These developments ultimately led to the first split-system designs suitable for homes, and the development of evermore efficient refrigerant chemicals to undergo the compression and expansion process. Ultimately, ductwork became a standard part of many homes, and central air conditioners took their place in our daily lives.
3. How Residential Cooling Systems Work
The evaporative process, described above, is relatively easy to understand. In this day and age, nearly all air conditioners, from central air to window-mounted units use the compression and evaporation of a refrigerant to cool the air inside your home.
The process works like this.
- Your thermostat detects, through mechanical or digital means, that the indoor air temperature is higher than your preferred temperature setting.
- The thermostat sends a command to the AC to switch on its compressor and to power the internal blower fans.
- The compressor forces refrigerant into the system at very high pressure so that it remains a liquid.
- Refrigerant enters your home and expands into an evaporating coil: here, a strong fan blows air pulled from the home’s intake over the condenser.
- Within the coil, the refrigerant evaporates to its gaseous state, pulling heat energy out of the air in the process.
- The now-cool air re-circulates into the home due to the blower fan.
- The refrigerant returns outside, where it enters a condenser to return it to a liquid before being re-compressed and sent back through the system.
4. Energy Transfer: What is EER?
The Ener Efficient Ratio (EER) is the original way for determining the efficiency of an air conditioner unit, but it uses fixed values. Its formula assumes the outside temperature is 95F, the desired indoor temperature is 80F, and 50% humidity.
EER vs SEER
The efficiency you can expect from your A/C at the peak cooling time.
The average of the highs and lows of a home’s cooling pattern.
A better measurement for homes in unusually hot or cold climates.
A better measurement for homes in moderate climates.
5. Residential Air Conditioner Maintenance
An air conditioner’s filters, coils, and fins require regular maintenance for the unit to function effectively and efficiently throughout its years of service. Neglecting necessary maintenance ensures a steady decline in air conditioning performance while energy use steadily increases. Check out our Energy Saver 101 Infographic: Home Cooling for more was to help improve your comfort and the efficiency of our air conditioner.
What Else Should You Know About AC Maintenance?
Air Conditioner Filters
The most important maintenance task that will ensure the efficiency of your air conditioner is to routinely replace or clean its filters. Clogged, dirty filters block normal airflow and reduce a system’s efficiency significantly. With normal airflow obstructed, air that bypasses the filter may carry dirt directly into the evaporator coil and impair the coil’s heat-absorbing capacity.
Replacing a dirty, clogged filter with a clean one can lower your air conditioner’s energy consumption by 5-15%.
Where are Filters Located?
For central air conditioners, filters are generally located somewhere along the return duct’s length. Common filter locations are in walls, ceilings, furnaces, or in the air conditioner itself.
Room air conditioners have a filter mounted in the grill that faces into the room. Some types of filters are reusable: others must be replaced. They are available in a variety of types and efficiencies.
Clean or replace your air conditioning system’s filter or filters every month or two during the cooling season. Filters may need more frequent attention if the air conditioner is in constant use, is subjected to dusty conditions, or you have fur-bearing pets in the house.
Air Conditioner Coils
The air conditioner’s evaporator coil and condenser coil collect dirt over their months and years of service. A clean filter prevents the evaporator coil from soiling quickly. In time, however, the evaporator coil will still collect dirt. This dirt reduces airflow and insulates the coil, reducing its ability to absorb heat. To avoid this problem, check your evaporator coil every year and clean it as necessary.
Outdoor condenser coils can also become very dirty if the outdoor environment is dusty or if there is foliage nearby. You can easily see the condenser coil and notice if dirt is collecting on its fins. You should minimize dirt and debris near the condenser unit. Your dryer vents, falling leaves, and lawn mower are all potential sources of dirt and debris. Cleaning the area around the coil, removing any debris, and trimming foliage back at least 2 feet (0.6 meters) allow for adequate airflow around the condenser.
The aluminum fins on evaporator and condenser coils are easily bent and can block airflow through the coil. Air conditioning wholesalers sell a tool called a “fin comb” that will comb these fins back into nearly original condition.
Occasionally pass a stiff wire through the unit’s drain channels. Clogged drain channels prevent a unit fronn reducing humidity, and the resulting excess moisture may discolor walls or carpet.
Window Seals for Room Air Conditioners
At the start of each cooling season, inspect the seal between the air conditioner and the window frame to ensure it makes contact with the unit’s metal case. Moisture can damage this seal, allowing cool air to escape from your house.
Preparing for Winter
In the winter, either cover your room air conditioner or remove and store it. Covering the outdoor unit of a central air conditioner will protect the unit from winter weather and debris.
What kinds of services will a professional technican provide?
- Check and tightening connections where necessary
- Look for any signs of damage or developing breakdowns
- Test for the proper level of refrigerant and adding more if necessary
- Drain condensate pans
- Verify adequate airflow and good operational status of all components
6. Residential Air Conditioning: Humidity Control
Did you know that air conditioners don’t just cool the air, but they also dehumidify it? In fact, Carrier’s original invention was focused more on controlling the humidity within a space than on cooling the air. Humidity reduction is a pleasant byproduct of the electrical evaporation cooling process.
How Does it All Work?
- As air passes over the condenser, the coil itself sucks the moisture right out of the air.
- As the condensing coil reduces humidity, the water must go somewhere – so it collects on the coils.
- The water drips or trickles into a safe space where the water can flow outside of the home.
The result is drier air that helps to bring down the overall humidity within a space. Central air conditioners can achieve this result much more easily than ductless systems since they circulate a greater volume of air. However, very high humidity can tax some systems.
A very humid environment can lead to an overflow of the drain pain, leading to reduced efficiency or even a shutoff. Likewise, a temperature set too low can cause this moisture to freeze. It’s a careful balancing act!
7. Health Factors
Air conditioners regularly circulate the same air inside your home, impacting your health. lt helps to be aware of some of the potential ways AC can affect your health.
- Poor air quality due to particles or smoke in the air which can affect your lungs. Your AC filter helps to trap some of these, but it isn’t perfect. Eventually, dust and particle build-up in your ductwork can carry through your filter. Regular cleaning can prevent that.
- Any occurrence of mold within ductwork can pose a health hazard.
- Airborne infectious diseases, like the flu, can circulate more easily.
- Rapid reductions in humidity may be uncomfortable to some.
- Verifying adequate airflow and good operational status of all components.
8. What Is The Best Setting For Your AC Thermostat?
Choosing a “best” setting is ultimately an arbitrary matter of preference, and no answer will work for every individual.
Consider these factors when determining your thermostat temperature:
- The Humidity Percentages
There’s lots of truth in the old saying, “It’s not the heat, but the humidity.” When it’s hot, it’s the relative humidity making people really feel uncomfortable because your body’s sweat glands don’t work as efficiently as they can.
Sweat works to help maintain body temperature by evaporating from your body and carrying away some of your body heat (called “latent heat“). In fact, in order to regulate body temperature, human skin sweats automatically at 98.6 Fahrenheit (37 C).
To understand the effects of humidity better:
When the air is dry, your sweat evaporates readily and you feel comfortable. An 800F day feels like 800F when the relative humidity is 40%. However, as humidity rises, more water vapor is in the air which makes its more and more difficult for your sweat to evaporate. So when it’s steamy hot and humid, it feels much hotter and you sweat in buckets. An 800F day with 90% humidity has a “heat index” of 860F.
How can you reduce relative humidity in my home?
Fortunately, air conditioners are extremely good at this, especially if you have air sealed your home and have vapor barriers in your basement or crawlspaces. EPA recommends the “ideal” humidity level of 60% during summer and 25 to 40% in the winter. Many programmable thermostats will display the relative humidity at the push of a button. Meanwhile, personal fans and ceiling fans feel great, because they blow air across your body, and moving air is very good at evaporation. Thus, fans don’t lower the temperature of a room, but they make it feel cooler.
One common humidity problem is your air conditioner might be too big for the home. The system will run for a short time and cool the house, but will not run long enough to dehumidify. If this is the case in your home, you will need to discuss it with a contractor.
- The Numbers Game
How high can you set the thermostat on your central air and still be comfortable? Some people like it cool: others want it warm. Some people also get fixated on a setting, say 720F. Yet, they find themselves being very comfortable in a room where it is 780F without their knowing it. Like we said earlier — comfort is complicated. Also, our normal circadian rhythm fluctuates body temperatures during the day so the comfort-goal posts keep getting moved.
How do you find the right temperature?
When everyone is home, secretly set your thermostat to 810F for few hours. See how your family reacts. Over the next few days for the same period of time, drop the temperature 20F until you reach 710F. Chances are that your family will be generally comfortable between 730F and 790F when they are active.
To ideally balance comfort and cost, you should look for a setting that is as high as possible without compromising your comfort. Consider setting the thermostat to a higher level than you might typically prefer, such as 800; at this level, the AC will only run enough to keep the temperature from rising to meet the exterior ambient temperature.
Too hot? Drop it by a degree or two and wait another few hours. Evaluate how you – and your family, if applicable – feel about the temperature. You may soon find that your actual comfort threshold is higher than you’ve typically though!
The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) finds “The preferred temperature range for occupants dressed in summer clothes (0.35 to 0.6 clo) is 730 to 790F (22.50 to 260C).” Maybe you like it colder – that’s fine, too – but be aware that the more frequently you use the unit for lower temperatures, the more it will cost.
At night when you go to sleep, your core body temperature lowers and heat radiates from your extremities. A National Institute of Health study found the best sleep happens as the body reaches “thermoneutrality” when environmental temperatures are at 860F (nude and uncovered) or 60 to 660F (wearing pajamas and covered by one sheet).
This suggests the key to getting a good night’s sleep during the summer is to raise your thermostat setting to a somewhat warm setting, say 800F for example. Then use the appropriate amount of bedding and pajamas for late June to feel comfortable. You can also help yourself drift off by using a ceiling fan to gently waft a breeze down onto you. To help you wake up, you can program your thermostat to return to the waking temperature a half hour before you get up.
- Check those Savings
How much can you save by making these adjustments to your thermostat? Each degree that you are able to raise the thermostat saves you 3 to 5% on your air conditioning costs. So if normally have your thermostat pegged at 740F and you are paying $150, just raising it a mere 4 degrees to 78F could reduce your bill by $25. By adjusting your thermostat to your family’s schedule, or using a programmable thermostat, you can save even more.
Save even more energy and money with great Texas energy plans from Bounce Energy! We have a variety of rates and plans so you can find the perfect one for your home and family.
9. AC Installation Types
There are several different ways one might choose to install an air conditioner in a residential property. The right choice often depends on the space to be cooled, how often it will run, and how much work is necessary for installation. Here are the big three that most homeowners will consider at some point.
The traditional, most well-known type of air conditioner, also known as “central air.” Requires ductwork throughout the home to be able to transport cooled air. Typically more energy intensive and suitable for whole-house cooling.
For homes without ductwork, or for extensions for which adding ductwork would be too costly or difficult. A mini-split still uses an outdoor compressor, but the condenser and blower are packaged into one unit, usually installed above a doorway. Ideal for cooling smaller spaces and individual rooms, multiple mini-split units can run off the same compressor.
In cases where a mini-split won’t work, “window shakers” and units installed directly into a wall are an option. These all-in-one packages are best suited for small spaces or homes where cooling is not frequently needed. Though less common, there are still many use cases for this installation type.
10. Ten Essential Things To Know About
Your Air Conditioner
1. The Filters
The filter help to clean the air as your AC pulls it in for cooling, reducing the circulation of allergens throughout your home but also helping to reduce the amount of dust accumulating within your ducts. Continue Reading
Regularly changing the filter is very important for maintaining operation: if your unit doesn’t seem to be cooling properly, your filter may be dirty. Always try changing the filter before calling for service.
While you may need to increase the frequency of filter changes based on the local environment (e.g., dusty roads) or your living arrangement (e.g„ multiple pets), there are two rules to follow:
- Filters with a one-inch thickness, the most common type, should be exchanged every month. Two-inch filters can last twice as long.
- Stockpiling filters so you can change them at the correct interval can be a smart move.You can usually find the filter near the intake vent in a wall or ceiling or inside the interior air handler itself.
2. Exterior Condenser Unit
The exterior condenser unit requires occasional cleaning. Check the radiator fins located on the sides of the exterior unit and ensure that nothing is growing into them, such as vines. Continue Reading
3. Common Obstructions
Speaking of the outdoor unit, it’s important for it to be able to “breathe” in order to facilitate an effective, efficient cooling cycle Continue Reading
It is not recommended to plant new bushes or other plants any closer than 2 to 3 feet from the base of the unit. Continue Reading
5. Faster Cooling
In almost every circumstance, you should never set your thermostat below 70 degrees. Continue Reading
6. Targeting Temperature
Most air conditioners can cool a home to about 20 degrees below the exterior temperature. Continue Reading
You might see the frost inside or outside, especially during hot days when you have the interior temperature set low. Continue Reading
Overflows and leaks are a common problem that can occur after a system repeatedly freezes and in other conditions as Well. Continue Reading
There is no need for an annual “recharge” of your system with refrigerant (commonly called Freon). Your system does not use up refrigerant, and in a properly functioning system none is lost. Continue Reading
10. Refrigerant Leaks
Refrigerant leaks can occur in almost every part of the system – inside, outside in the condenser, or even in the supply lines that run between the two. Continue Reading
11. Valley Comfort Cooling Services
No matter the specific type of air conditioner you have, it’s likely that you will eventually encounter a problem that indicates there’s something wrong with your system. It could be a thermostat problem, or perhaps your system has run low on refrigerant. When you experience a problem with your AC at home in Sonoma or Napa, having a trustworthy professional you can turn to helps to take the stress out of the situation.
At Valley Comfort Heating and Air, our professional team is well-versed in all kinds of AC troubles and is available 24 hours a day all week long.
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We serve Residential and Commercial customers in the following counties and cities
- Rohnert Park
- Santa Rosa
- American Canyon
- St Helena
- San Rafael