Frequently Asked Questions

How does an air conditioner work?

An air conditioner seems as if it cools your home's air, but it actually makes your home less warm by removing heat from the indoor air and transferring that heat to the outdoor air.

Heat is extracted from the home by passing indoor air across a refrigerant coil in the indoor unit. Refrigerant lines then carry the heat to the outdoor unit, where it is released into the outside air. The cooling cycle continues until the indoor temperature reaches the thermostat setting.

What is two-stage cooling?

Two-stage cooling means the air conditioner or heat pump has a compressor with two levels of operation: high for hot summer days and low for milder days. Since the low setting is adequate to meet household-cooling demands 80% of the time, a two-stage unit runs for longer periods and produces more even temperatures.

Longer cooling cycles also translate to quieter, more efficient operation and enhanced humidity control. Compared to a single-stage unit, a two-stage air conditioner or heat pump can remove twice as much moisture from the air. This is important because when moisture levels are high, there's a higher potential for mold and other pollutant problems.

What is two-stage heating?

Two-stage heating means the furnace has two levels of heat output: high for cold winter days and low for milder days. Since the low setting is adequate to meet household-cooling demands 80% of the time, a two-stage unit runs for longer periods and provides more even heat distribution.

Longer, low-capacity operation has many advantages:

Consistent comfort

Two-stage heating eliminates the temperature swings associated with standard furnaces, regulating temperature to within as little as one degree of the thermostat setting.

Quiet operation

Two-stage furnaces start in the first stage, when the amount of heat required is lower, instead of reaching full capacity all at once. That means there's no sudden "kick" or blast of air.

Improved air filtration

Low-speed operation allows your filters to capture more contaminants (because air is constantly passing through them), so you can breathe easier.

Efficient performance

Because the furnace operates mostly in its lower-capacity first stage, it burns less fuel than a standard furnace that always runs at full capacity and shuts off when the heating demand has been met.

What is a variable speed furnace?

The term "variable speed" refers to the furnace's indoor blower motor, which moves at different speeds to precisely control the flow of heated and cooled air throughout your home. Better airflow control has several benefits:

Electrical efficiency

Variable speed motors can actually save you money on your energy bills, as they consume less electricity than standard motors.

Cooling efficiency

Variable speed technology also means you will gain heating efficiency or AFUE.

Zoning

Variable speed motors are excellent for zoning, which allows you to customize your comfort in different areas of your home and control your energy bills.

Air quality

A variable speed motor can also help clean the air in your home. When the fan is in constant operation (indicated by the "Fan" setting on your thermostat), the motor will continue to slowly circulate air, allowing filters to capture more contaminants.

Humidity control

A variable speed motor combined with a Lennox ComfortSense® 7000 Series thermostat Home Comfort Control allows you to control the amount of humidity in your home for improved indoor air quality and comfort.

How does the change in the ban on R-22 Refrigerant affect me?

HCFC-22 (also known as R-22) has been the refrigerant of choice for residential heat pump and air-conditioning systems for more than four decades. Unfortunately for the environment, releases of R-22, such as those from leaks, contribute to ozone depletion. In addition, R-22 is a greenhouse gas and the manufacture of R-22 results in a by-product (HFC-23) that contributes significantly to global warming. As the manufacture of R-22 is phased out over the coming years as part of the agreement to end production of HCFCs, manufacturers of residential air conditioning systems are offering equipment that uses ozone-friendly refrigerants.

Availability of R-22

The Clean Air Act does not allow any refrigerant to be vented into the atmosphere during installation, service, or retirement of equipment. Therefore, R-22 must be recovered and recycled (for reuse in the same system), reclaimed (reprocessed to the same purity standard as new R-22), or destroyed. After 2020, the servicing of R-22-based systems will rely solely on recycled or reclaimed refrigerants. For the next 10 years or more, R-22 should continue to be available for all systems that require R-22 for servicing.

Alternatives to R-22 in Residential Air Conditioning

As R-22 is gradually phased out, non-ozone-depleting alternative refrigerants are being introduced. Under the Clean Air Act, EPA reviews alternatives to ozone-depleting substances to evaluate their effects on human health and the environment. EPA has reviewed several alternatives to R-22 for household and light commercial air conditioning and has compiled a list of substitutes that EPA has determined are acceptable. One of these substitutes is R-410A, a blend of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) that does not contribute to depletion of the ozone layer.

What does AFUE mean?

Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency: Like your car’s miles- per-gallon rating, a higher AFUE rating means a higher efficiency unit. A furnace’s AFUE of 90% means 90% of the fuel is used to heat your home, while the other 10% is wasted in gases vented outside. Choose a higher AFUE to save more energy.

What is a BTU?

BTU stands for British Thermal Unit, the unit of heat energy that’s necessary to raise the temperature of one pound of water one degree Fahrenheit, from 58.5 to 59.5. How does this apply to your home? Well, a 10,000 Btu air conditioner can remove 10,000 Btus of heat per hour.

What does EER mean?

The EER, or energy-efficiency ratio of a cooling system, measures how efficiently the system will operate when the outdoor temperature is at a specific level (usually 95F). A higher EER means a higher efficiency.

What is the difference between EER and SEER?

The SEER (seasonal energy-efficiency ratio) is a measure of air conditioning system’s efficiency over an entire cooling season, as opposed to a single outdoor temperature.

What is HSPF?

Heating System Performance Factor: This is the measure of a heat pump’s estimated seasonal heating output during spring and fall. Heat pumps with higher HSPFs are more efficient than heat pumps with lower HSPF ratings.

Why is it important to have regular maintenance on my home comfort system?

You wouldn't buy a brand-new car and expect to never have to put air in the tires, change the oil and check out any unusual noises, would you? In the same way that an automobile requires periodic maintenance for optimal performance, a home comfort system should be have an annual Pre Season inspection. Scheduling an annual checkup can also help you identify any small problems that could turn into large problems later. Click here for more info. (Link to Pre Season Request Form.)

Should I cover my outdoor unit in the fall and winter?

Covering the unit is not necessary, especially if you have a heat pump that runs all year long. In fact, covering an entire unit may actually trap moisture. If you're concerned about leaves and debris getting inside the housing, short covers are available as an optional accessory and may be purchased through Alpine.

How do I get my A/C ready for spring?

After clearing any leaves, brush and dirt from inside your air conditioner’s top grille, trim nearby shrubs and bushes to allow at least two feet of clearance around the unit. Replace your air conditioner filter once a month, because dirty filters restrict air flow and mean your system can waste energy.

Even if it isn’t a very warm day, go ahead and set your thermostat to cooling mode now and run your air conditioner a few minutes to make sure it’s working. If you wait until the weather gets hot to find out your air conditioner isn’t operating the way it should, it may be days before a technician is available to fix it. Scheduling an annual checkup (Link to Pre Season Form) in early spring can also help you identify any small problems that could turn into large problems later and ensure your system is ready to go.

How Can I Ensure the Best Efficiency in the Winter?

  • Have a qualified HVAC professional inspect your home’s ducts and cooling equipment.
  • Set your thermostat to 68°F when you’re at home and awake, and as low as 60°F when you’re asleep or awake.
  • Clean or replace furnace filters every month.
  • Clean chimney and check to see if your fireplace is working properly.
  • Seal air leaks in the attic, basement and crawlspace, and also around windows and doors.
  • Insulate inside of windows with heavy-duty, clear plastic sheets.
  • Check your attic for proper insulation. (The U.S. Department of Energy suggests a value between R-22 and R-49.)
  • Close curtains or shades at night and keep them open during the day Clean windows on the south side of your house to maximize sunlight exposure. Weather-strip doors that lead to cold or outside areas. Wrap and insulate waterlines to prevent them from freezing. Repair leaky faucets.
  • Install a programmable thermostat, so you can preset temperatures for different times of the day. Insulate the water tank and first six feet of hot and cold water pipes connected to the unit.
  • Lower the temperature of your water heater to 120°F (for every 10-degree decrease in temperature, you may save 3% - 5% on your energy costs).
  • Install rubber gaskets behind outlets and use switch plates on exterior walls. Install low-flow showerheads.
  • Things you can do to improve air quality and reduce potential health risks:
  • When adjusting clocks, change batteries in smoke alarms, as well as radon and carbon monoxide detectors. Consider a ventilation system to increase air circulation inside and add a healthy dose of fresh air. Clean water-damaged carpets and materials, or consider replacement. Reduce the potential for buildup of allergy-causing pollutants by keeping your house clean
  • Take special precaution when operating fuel-burning appliances to avoid leakage. Store and dispose of household chemicals in a safe manner.