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Cooling Terms You Should Know When Upgrading Air Conditioning Systems

Posted on: August 18, 2011

When you upgrade your air conditioning system, you may run into a number of terms that need to be defined. To help you be more educated in making upgrade decisions, below are some cooling terms that you should know.

Parts of an air conditioning system
Most air conditioning systems come in two parts: the indoor air handler and the outdoor compressor/condenser unit.

  • The air handler contains a fan to blow the air and an evaporator coil to cool the air. The air is cooled by the cold liquid refrigerant inside the evaporator coil boiling away into a gas; in the process, the refrigerant absorbs the heat out of the air.
  • The compressor/condenser reverses the indoor process by compressing the refrigerant and forcing it back into a hot gas liquid, with the heat being released to the outside air through the condenser coil and the refrigerant turns back to a liquid.

Types of air conditioning systems
Besides the standard central A/C system described above, there are some systems that use the same principles but work somewhat differently.

  • A ductless mini-split system combines one outdoor unit with multiple indoor air handlers — one for each part of the house. This eliminates the need for ductwork.
  • A heat pump, in its simplest terms, is an air conditioner that can be run in reverse to heat the house during the winter.
  • A zoning system takes a standard A/C and divides it up into cooling zones, so that each part of the house can be cooled independently.

Measurement terms
The performance of A/C upgrades is measured not in inches or ounces, but in BTUs and watt-hours.

  • A BTU is the amount of cooling needed to lower the temperature of a pound of water by one degree.
  • 12,000 BTUs per hour equals one ton, which is how A/C size is usually described.
  • A watt-hour is one watt of electricity used for one hour.
  • SEER is the ratio of BTUs produced per watt-hour consumed. The minimum allowable SEER is 13 (13 BTUs per watt-hour), but you can upgrade to a higher SEER number to reduce your electricity consumption.

If you have any questions or would like to learn more, contact the Charlotte-area experts at Acosta Heating & Cooling. We would be happy to help you with your air conditioning upgrades.