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How to Understand Air Conditioner Ratings

How to Understand Air Conditioner RatingsShopping for a new central air conditioner lacking a familiarity with air conditioner ratings is like going hiking barefoot. You’re not going to get very far. Ratings that show the cooling efficiency of an air conditioning system (in effect, how well the system converts electricity into cooling) will help you get the right A/C for your San Diego-area home.

The most common residential central cooling system in Southern California (and the U.S. as a whole) is the split-system A/C or heat pump. It has one component (the air handler/evaporator coil) inside the house and another (the condenser/compressor) outside. The main efficiency rating applied to split-systems is Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER). The number — running from 13 to 25 in the U.S. — is calculated by dividing cooling output by the electrical power that goes into the equipment. The higher the number, the more efficient the A/C or heat pump.

Manufacturers in California are prohibited from selling split-system A/Cs with SEER numbers below 14. Heat pump A/Cs must have at least SEER 15. In order to qualify for the federal government’s energy-efficiency credential, the Energy Star, a split system air conditioner and heat pump must boast SEER 15 or above.

The higher efficiency does cost money, however, with incremental increases in SEER amounting to hundreds of dollars. A homeowner shopping for a new central A/C should consider how much use they expect to get out of their new cooling system. A family that runs the A/C constantly and expects to live in the same home for the foreseeable future should consider investing in a high-SEER A/C or heat pump. Over time, the lower operating costs will pay for the extra upfront cost. However, someone who doesn’t plan to stay in the same home more than a few years, or is out of town a lot, is probably better off with a low-end SEER system. Consult with your trusted HVAC contractor before making a decision.

For help understanding air conditioner ratings, or to discuss upgrading your San Diego home’s cooling system, please contact us at Sherlock Heating & Air Conditioning.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in the greater San Diego and San Marcos, California area about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems).

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Two-Stage Cooling: The Benefits

Two-Stage Cooling: The BenefitsBecause single-stage cooling is more than you need most of the time, two-stage cooling offers better comfort control and lower operating costs. A one-stage air conditioner has only a single cooling output: 100 percent all the time, as long as the unit is running. This all or nothing approach has several drawbacks:

  • Once the house is cooled to the desired thermostat setting, the single-stage A/C continues to operate at 100 percent output, causing the unit to cycle on and off frequently and inducing noticeable temperature swings above and below the desired thermostat setting.
  • Single-stage cooling consumes more electricity, particularly on days where temperatures are more moderate and 100 percent cooling output isn’t required.
  • Because the single-stage unit cycles on and off very frequently throughout the day, it incurs wear and tear faster and may have shorter expected service life.
  • Shorter “on” cycles don’t allow enough time for humidity extraction at the evaporator coil to reach optimum levels. A more humid indoor environment feels warmer and less comfortable.

A two-stage A/C incorporates a compressor that operates in two outputs: 100 percent and approximately 67 percent. When the thermostat calls for quick cooling of an overly warm house, the compressor runs at 100 percent output. Once the thermostat setting has been reached, the system automatically defaults to the lower 67 percent output mode.

Here are some reasons why two stages are better than one:

  • When the system downshifts to the lower output mode, it runs more continuously and maintains more accurate temperature control. This fine-tunes indoor comfort, typically keeping the temperature within one or two degrees of the desired setting and eliminating extreme swings.
  • Running at 67 percent output, the compressor consumes about one-third less electricity so cooling costs are reduced.
  • Because the system runs more continuously, the humidity extraction function — an important component of the cooling process — works more efficiently.
  • Frequent on/off cycling is reduced so wear and tear on critical A/C components is minimized and extended service life is more likely.

In the northern San Diego region, ask the professionals at Sherlock Heating & Air Conditioning for more about upgrading to two-stage cooling.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in the greater San Diego and San Marcos, California area about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems).

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You’ll Want Clean A/C Coils this Summer

You'll Want Clean A/C Coils this SummerIn the summer, few things are more infuriating than an air conditioning system that’s cooling your home inadequately or not working at all. You can avoid such inconveniences by performing some maintenance tasks, such as cleaning your air conditioning coils. Clean A/C coils can make a significant difference in your system’s performance.

Why are Clean A/C Coils Important?

Your air conditioner has evaporator and condenser coils that absorb indoor heat and release it outdoors. Dirt buildup on the coils prevents the proper movement of heat through them.

Dirty coils use more energy than clean coils. They also lower your A/C system’s cooling capacity. This is because the dirt causes an increase in pressure and operating temperatures within the system. Eventually, the conditions break down the compressor’s lubricant, resulting in equipment failure.

How to Clean A/C Coils

You’ll need a 4-in-1 screwdriver, garden hose with a spray nozzle, shop vacuum, funnel, whisk broom and safety glasses.

To clean the condenser coils:

  • Start by shutting off the power to your air conditioner.
  • Remove the compressor case and gently vacuum the metal fins.
  • Remove the top grille and carefully support it without overstretching the electrical wires.
  • Gently clean the surface of the coils with a whisk broom. Remove trapped dirt from the coils using a hose with a spray nozzle. Be careful not to flood the area, bend the delicate metal fins, or spray water on the fan motor and electrical components. Cover them with a plastic bag.
  • Inspect the coils for damages before reassembling the unit.

To clean the evaporator coils:

  • Start by turning off the power to the indoor A/C unit and replace its filter if it’s dirty to prevent the dust from accumulating on the coil fins.
  • Vacuum any dust in the blower compartment.
  • Unclog your condensation drain by pouring a bleach solution through its tube.

To ensure the job is done correctly and safely, call an HVAC pro. For more information on maintaining clean A/C coils, please contact us at Sherlock Heating & Air Conditioning. We serve the San Diego area.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in the greater San Diego and San Marcos, California area about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems).

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Advice for a Leaking Air Conditioner

Advice for a Leaking Air Conditioner | SherlockOne of the more common problems experienced with home cooling is a leaking air conditioner. This not only can damage the A/C; it also can damage floors, walls and other nearby fixtures and items. If you discover a pool of water near the inside unit of your air conditioning system, turn off the A/C. The water could damage electronic components of the system, plus pose a safety risk. At this point, your best bet is to call a trusted HVAC technician to diagnose and fix the problem.

It does help to understand why you have a leaking air conditioner so you can take steps to prevent this problem in the future.

In a typical A/C, a blower fan draws warm, humid air into the inside unit, where it passes over the evaporator coil. As refrigerant inside the coil absorbs heat energy from the air, small droplets of water pulled from the air remain on the coil briefly before draining into a condensate pan underneath the A/C. A drain line removes the moisture from the home.

If any step in this process goes wrong, it can result in a leaking air conditioner. Following are some typical problems:

  • The drain line, if it gets blocked by dirt, mold, algae or other materials, will cause the water to back up into the home. Your A/C technician should check the condensate drain as part of routine seasonal maintenance.
  • A dirty evaporator coil also may be the culprit. When the droplets of water fall from the coil, they take dirt with them, clogging the condensate drain. Keeping the evaporator coil clean, as part of A/C maintenance, will prevent this from happening.
  • A rusted-out condensate drain pan is another potential source of your leaky A/C. It should be replaced.
  • The problem also may have happened during installation.

While your home’s air conditioner may be leaking for other reasons, such as a frozen evaporator coil, these are some of the most common. For help with any A/C malfunctions in your San Diego-area home, please contact us at Sherlock Heating & Air Conditioning.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in the greater San Diego and San Marcos, California area about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems). 

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How to Get Your Air Conditioner Unit Ready for the Fall Season

How to Get Your Air Conditioner Unit Ready for the Fall SeasonEven though the weather in the San Diego area is known for being mild and sunny for most of the year, it’s still important to perform annual maintenance work on your air conditioner unit. Here are some tips on how to prepare your air conditioner unit for the fall season:

  • Remove portable A/C units from windows. They should be placed into storage away from windows or other sources of moisture.
  • Plant material, such as dead leaves or overgrown plants, can prevent outdoor air conditioners from working efficiently. The area around the coil should be checked for accumulated debris and cleaned as necessary.
  • After any debris has been removed, the condenser and evaporator coils should be checked. They can gather a heavy coating of dirt while they are being used, reducing airflow and efficiency. The coils should be checked at least once per year, so make sure to include this in your annual maintenance work.
  • Look at the condition of the air filters. They may need to be cleaned or changed as frequently as every other month.

Following these suggestions can help you to avoid unnecessary wear and tear on your air conditioner. For more information on how routine autumn maintenance visits can save you money, contact us at Sherlock Heating & Air. We have been keeping residents in the San Diego area cool since 2002 and look forward to helping you!

Our goal is to help educate our customers in the greater San Diego and San Marcos, California area about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems).

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3 Things You Should Stop Doing to Your San Marcos A/C

3 Things You Should Stop Doing to Your San Marcos A/CAir conditioning is one of the best features of a modern home, especially in areas like ours that experience hot summers. It’s easy to take it for granted until it stops working. Here are things to stop doing to your A/C so that it stays in good working condition longer.

No Energy Audit

Poor insulation and air leaks make your home hotter and add to your air conditioner’s workload. This not only reduces comfort but can also decrease the life span of your A/C.

Have an HVAC contractor perform an energy audit to determine any changes you should make to your home. Your contractor can also determine whether your current A/C unit is the right size for your home’s cooling needs. Undersized systems struggle to keep a home cool, and oversized systems suffer because they cycle on and off too frequently.

Forgetting to Change the Filter

The air filter keeps debris off system components and keeps your indoor air cleaner. Clogged air filters lead to dirty air conditioners, reducing airflow vital for normal system function.

Remember to change the air filter every month. Ask your contractor which filter type is best for your system and for your lifestyle needs. If you own pets or have someone in the home who has allergies, you need a filter that can efficiently trap dander and other allergens without decreasing airflow to your A/C.

No Regular Maintenance

Neglecting maintenance for your air conditioner can lead to small, easily fixed issues turning into bigger problems. Your air conditioner works hard and needs professional maintenance at least once a year before each operating season. During the maintenance visit, the service technician will clean the coils and other parts that can cause the system to malfunction if left dirty. He or she will also check refrigerant and make sure all components are operating correctly.

For more information about things to stop doing to your A/C, contact the home comfort pros at Sherlock Heating & Air Conditioning.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in the greater San Diego and San Marcos, California area about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems).

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Consider Upgrading to a Variable-Speed Air Handler

Consider Upgrading to a Variable-Speed Air HandlerIf your HVAC system is 10 years old or more, it probably has a single-speed air handler. A new energy efficient A/C with a variable-speed air handler has many advantages over the single-speed model. Here are some important benefits of upgrading to a variable-speed air handler.


A single-speed air handler can only run at one speed. It cycles between zero capacity and 100 percent throughout the day, delivering air using its full capacity regardless of your home’s demands. This is inefficient because full air delivery is usually needed for only a short period of time.

On the contrary, a variable-speed air handler adjusts its speed to deliver the exact amount of air needed, so it only consumes the amount of energy that your home requires. It runs nearly continuously, which means it doesn’t have to cycle on and off as frequently, making it consume less energy.

Quiet Operation

You’ve probably experienced that loud gush of air that comes from the ductwork when single-speed handlers start up. They also generate fan noise because they operate at maximum speed. Variable-speed handlers are quieter because they operate at lower speeds, and turn on and off less often.

Better Indoor Air Quality

When a single-speed air handler is off, contaminants remain suspended in the indoor air, which can exacerbate allergies and asthma. A variable-speed air handler works almost continuously, pushing air through the filter more frequently. Air is also pushed at a slower speed, allowing the filter to capture more contaminant particles.

Reduced Wear and Tear

Variable-speed air handlers cause less damage to HVAC systems than single-speed handlers because they don’t cycle on and off repeatedly.

Better Comfort

A single-speed handler cycles on and off, causing temperature fluctuations. During an off cycle, your home can cool excessively as hot air rises. A variable-speed handler makes your house more comfortable by eliminating temperature swings.

To learn more about a variable-speed air handler for your San Diego County home, contact the pros at Sherlock Heating & Air Conditioning.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in the greater San Diego and San Marcos, California area about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems).

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5 Ways to Protect Your A/C Unit From Theft

5 Ways to Protect Your A/C Unit From TheftAir conditioning systems are a popular target for thieves because the condenser coils and refrigerant lines contain copper that’s worth a few hundred dollars when scrapped. Air conditioners are often placed out of public view for aesthetic reasons, so it is easy to quickly strip the system and carry the valuable portions away. By protecting your A/C unit from theft with the following suggestions, you can avoid the high repair bills associated with the crime.

  • Have your HVAC contractor secure your A/C unit to a thick concrete base during installation. Not only does this help eliminate theft, but the base also helps keep your system level for proper operation and separates it from nearby plant growth that could interfere with the system’s airflow.
  • Have your HVAC contractor install an A/C alarm on your system. An A/C alarm attaches to either the power supply or the refrigerant lines and notifies you or your security company if it detects a loss of power or a refrigerant leak, both of which may indicate an attempted theft.
  • Prevent easy access to the A/C unit. If it is located in your back yard, consider fencing in the yard and using a locking gate. If fencing your yard is not an option, consider fencing in the A/C unit itself, making sure the fenced area is large enough to maintain proper airflow to the system.
  • Install bright, motion-activated lights to discourage nighttime thefts, and consider adding an inexpensive security camera to prevent thefts during daylight hours. Make sure the camera is not easily accessible to prevent thieves from damaging it.
  • Install a cage around your A/C unit. Heavy steel cages are available from many suppliers or can be easily fabricated and are one of the best ways to protect your A/C unit from theft or damage. They surround the entire A/C unit and can easily be opened for system maintenance.

For more tips about protecting your A/C unit from theft, talk to the HVAC professionals at Sherlock Heating & Air Conditioning, Inc. We serve the entire San Diego area, as well as the southern Riverside County.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in the greater San Diego and San Marcos, California area about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems).

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Learn the 7 Components Crucial for Air Conditioner Function

Learn the 7 Components Crucial for Air Conditioner FunctionAn air conditioner is invaluable for getting through the hot San Diego and Encinitas summers comfortably. Because your A/C is so important, it’s worth taking the time to get familiar with how it works. The more you know, the better prepared you’ll be to plan maintenance, component replacements and upgrades.

  1. Evaporator coil – Located in or near your indoor air handler, this component receives cold refrigerant from the expansion valve. As the refrigerant flows through the coil, it absorbs heat from the passing air.
  2. Blower fan – This large fan inside the air handler draws air over the evaporator coil to be cooled, then blows the cooled air into the air ducts and out into your rooms.
  3. Air filter – Before entering the ductwork, air passes through a filter that removes contaminants such as lint and pollen. Filters that carry a Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) of 4 or less protect your system from debris, but filters with MERVs of 5 to 11 also improve your indoor air quality. The filter must be changed on schedule to ensure sufficient airflow and system efficiency.
  4. Compressor – This pump moves refrigerant through copper tubing from the evaporator coil to the outdoor condenser coil. It also raises the refrigerant’s pressure and temperature.
  5. Condenser coil – As refrigerant passes through this coil, located in your outdoor unit, it releases the heat it absorbed from your house into the outdoor air. It then flows back indoors and into the expansion valve, which relieves pressure on the refrigerant and thereby cools it.
  6. Condenser unit fan – This fan blows outdoor air over the condenser coil to cool the refrigerant faster. To help this fan run efficiently, keep your outdoor unit’s exterior free of debris such as dead leaves.
  7. Thermostat – Installed on a wall in your home, this component controls how often the air conditioner runs based on the temperature you select. A programmable thermostat can automatically change the temperature setting based on a schedule you set in advance.

For more help getting to know your air conditioner, contact us at Sherlock Inc. Heating & Air Conditioning anywhere in the San Diego, Encinitas, Oceanside and Poway areas.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in the greater San Diego and San Marcos, California area about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems).

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