Air conditioners FAQ

Everything you've ever wanted to know about air conditioners

A typical wall-mounted air conditioner.

A typical wall-mounted air conditioner.

Is a cooling-only system better than a heating/cooling system?

Cooling systems are not necessarily better than combined cooling/heating systems, but they are generally cheaper to buy and are a great option for those living in a warmer climate where heating isn’t necessary. Air conditioners that can both heat and cool can save you money, too, because you don't have to purchase additional heaters.

Can I leave doors and windows open while operating the unit?

You can leave windows and doors open, but it's not a good idea if you're trying to heat or cool your room. If you're trying to cool down a room, it's best to close curtains, blinds and windows during the hottest part of the day. This will keep your house cooler and prevent your air conditioner from having to work harder than it has to.

Can units be turned sideways to fit into a small wall space?

No. Like refrigerators, air conditioners contain oil and cooling fluids and must remain upright at all times. Turning an air conditioner will damage it. If your air conditioner has been placed on its side, you should put it upright and wait 24 hours before you plug it back in.

Can a home unit cause Legionella?

Legionella is not something you can contract from domestic air conditioning. The majority of cases are caused by incorrect cooling tower maintenance. Cooling towers are used in commercial air conditioning to cool water condensers and in industries to cool recirculated water.

Are there filters that need to be changed in air conditioners?

Yes.

How often will they need to be changed?

You should inspect the air filters in your air conditioner twice a month to see if cleaning is necessary. Trapped particles in the filter can build up and block the airflow. This reduces the air conditioner's cooling ability and also causes frost build-up on the cooling coils. Most residential systems have disposable filters and these should be replaced with the same size filter as originally supplied. Permanent filters should be cleaned according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Should a thermostat be set to "auto" or "on"?

Today, most air conditioners have an "auto" setting on the thermostat that makes the fan operate only when the temperature requires it. This is generally the most efficient setting because programmable thermostats maintain a steady temperature and reduce energy use by only working when needed.

Can I reduce energy usage while still using the unit?

You can if you use it economically. If you close windows, doors, curtains and blinds, you can help your air conditioner cool a room more quickly. Air conditioners with inverters and "auto" settings are economical in power consumption because they automatically adapt and maintain the temperature you want. Remember to clean your air conditioners filters on a regular basis, this practice will help reduce energy usage and increase your air conditioners effectiveness.

Should outdoor units be covered in winter?

Outdoor units are designed to withstand seasonal changes so they do not need to be covered. The heat pumps inside the unit operate year round and if you cover them, it may cause damage. If an outdoor unit needs replacing, should the indoor unit be replaced too?

Generally it is a good idea to replace the entire system when a major component of the system fails to operate correctly and cannot be repaired. That's because air conditioning and heating units are designed to operate as a complete, matched system.

Can plants or shrubs be planted around an outdoor unit?

Yes. However, make sure there is plenty of room around the outdoor unit so air can freely flow in and out of it. Without room for air circulation, the unit can overheat and damage itself. It's also a good idea to trim shrubbery and limbs back because they can cause damage if leaves or twigs are sucked into the outdoor unit.

What is the average life expectancy for heating/cooling units?

The average life expectancy of an air conditioner is about 10 years. When the air conditioner starts having more problems that are not cost-effective to fix, it may be time to replace it.

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