Cleveland HVAC Blog

Air Conditioner Replacement On The Horizon? Get To Know These Terms!

Posted by Paul Wadsworth on Mon, Aug 13, 2012 @ 01:53 PM

Every profession has its own jargon. For the consumer, the technical terms often fly thick and fast, especially when you’re shopping for a big-ticket item like a central air conditioner. As air conditioning equipment becomes more technically sophisticated, the terminology to describe it does, too. Still, it’s important to understand what you’re hearing so you can intelligently shop, ask the right questions and pick the system suitable for your needs.


Here's some of the nomenclature, acronyms and the occasional buzzword, you’re likely to encounter when you’re considering central air conditioning replacement:

  • hvac technical termsRefrigerant: The lifeblood of the air conditioner. This compressed gas absorbs and transfers heat efficiently.
  • Evaporator coil (or indoor cooling coil): Closely spaced tubes with attached fins that circulate refrigerant vapor. As household air is drawn through the coil by the blower fan, it extracts heat from the indoor air. 
  • Compressor: This device pressurizes the refrigerant, concentrating the heat load it’s carrying to the condenser coil.
  • Condenser coil: Another arrangement of tubing and fins, located in the outdoor unit. As refrigerant passes through the condenser, it condenses and rapidly sheds heat from your house, dispersing it into the outside air. 
  • SEER: It stands for seasonal energy efficiency ratio, a number that expresses the efficiency of an air conditioner by the ratio of heat it extracted from the air divided by the amount of electricity it consumed. The standard minimum SEER is currently 13. Just like MPG for your car, the higher the SEER the more efficiently your A/C performs.
  • HVAC: It’s the industry your professional heating and cooling contractor is in. It stands for heating, ventilation and air conditioning. 
  • Short charge: That’s what HVAC field techs call an insufficient amount of refrigerant in your A/C. It can cause poor performance, coil icing and even damage your compressor. Usually it means a leak somewhere.
  • Cooling Load: The amount of air conditioning capacity required to keep your home at a comfortable temperature (usually between 72-78 degrees).
  • Tonnage: Not the weight of the A/C, but the amount of BTUs of heat it removes from the air. One ton equals 12,000 BTUs per hour. This term comes from the early days of air conditioning when ice was used to cool buildings—a ton of A/C was the result of melting one ton of ice!

Considering an air conditioner replacement and confused by some of the terminology? Contact P.K. Wadsworth Heating & Cooling for trusted, experienced HVAC advice. Serving Greater Cleveland, we're always happy to help.



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Paul WadsworthPaul Wadsworth is the President and Owner of P.K. Wadsworth Heating and Cooling. For 37 years, Paul has been providing heating and cooling services to the Greater Cleveland area. P.K. Wadsworth has been a trusted Cleveland HVAC service company for 75 years. The company understand the area's construction and local heating and air conditioning needs. Paul has an MBA from the University of Michigan and a B.S., Industrial Engineering from Purdue University. He's been President of the Cleveland Air Conditioning Contractors of America and a founding member of the local chapter. Paul was born and raised in Cleveland and has been active in the local community. He resides in Cleveland, Ohio with his wife and two sons.

The opinions and statements contained in this article are for general informational purposes only and are not instructions. Only trained, licensed and experienced personnel should attempt installation/repair. The author assumes no liability for the opinions/statements made in this article. Any individual attempting a repair or installation based on this article does so at their own risk of loss.

Topics: hvac, air conditioning, central air conditioner, SEER

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