Types of Heating and Air Conditioning Systems in Los Angeles:
Heat + Cool
-Gas or Electric Furnance
Feeling comfortable around the house is an everyday luxury we take for granted. Air conditioning and heating give us control of the temperature indoors at the press of a button, but it wasn’t always that way.
Air conditioners became popular in households during the 1950s (before then ICE was the primary cooling method- which works great unless you don’t have any ice… or after it melts), but these early air conditioning systems were basically wall AC units. At the same refrigerators were also becoming common. This is because engineers after world war II discovered how to use the refrigerant cycle to chill indoor air. The basic principal is that when a liquid converts to a gas it absorbs heat. Air conditioners work by forcing Freon to evaporate and condense over and over again in a closed system of coils. The modern central AC system didn’t become widespread until the 1970s.
Lucky for us, we live in Los Angeles, where we don’t have to pay too much attention to the weekly weather forecast.
Our mild Mediterranean climate is usually sunny, and stays in the moderate range of 70-80 degrees most of the year, and temperatures never drops below freezing. It is no shock that many households in Los Angeles get away with having no Air Conditioning!
The hottest months of the year are the dog days of summer from July to August and September. The coldest months in the year are December, January and February (this is the rainy season in Los Angeles)
We have two micro climates that can radically change your heating and cooling needs. People who are close to the beach have 10 to 15 degree cooler temperatures on average because of the marine layer so they rarely, if ever need AC.
People who live in the San Fernando valley experiences temperatures 10 to 15 degree hotter than the Los Angeles Basin on average during the summer months which can push the mercury in the thermometer into the 90s and 100s, having Air Condition in the Valley is essential (and a pool is nice too!).
Heating and cooling is expensive! It accounts for nearly half the home’s total energy bill. Live in a warm area, or own a large house and the price can get really high. A programmable thermostat is a great way to save energy.
The performance of a Heating or Air Conditioning system depends greatly on proper installation. HVAC systems are assembled onsite by independent HVAC contractors and designed specifically for your home. Not every Heating and Air guy out there knows what they are doing. If they put too small or too large of an AC unit, improperly insulate refrigerant lines, put the wrong amount of refrigerant charge, do the ducting wrong, or a whole host of other common mistakes- you could end up having problems. Be careful and choose a professional. AC guys usually charge about $95/hr.
Air Conditioners have a useful life of 15 to 20 years. Chances are if you have an old AC the new models will be much more energy efficient, so you might consider upgrading. SEERS energy ratings allow you to comparison shop for the most efficient AC unit. Think of the SEERS rating like the miles per gallon of the AC. For an existing system 10 years or older, you probably have a SEER of 8-10. The government requires new AC installations to have a minimum SEER rating of 13- but you can get a SEER as high as 21 to 23 SEER.
These Energy Guide Yellow labels will tell you the SEER Rating. They also have these labels for furnaces.
A brand new installation Central AC system will cost between $10,000-$12,000 for a 1,500sqft to 2,000 sqft house. $5,000 will be for the AC unit and $5,000 will be for installing the ducting. If you already have a gas or electric furnace with ducts then adding AC will be less because you can use the same ducting for both systems. Keep in mind that the most important part of an efficient home indoor air system is proper installation.
Modern ACs can deliver and maintain a 15 to 20 degree temperature difference from the temperature outside. Is the air not getting cold? If you are only getting a temperature drop of 10 degrees or less, your AC system might need a recharge of refrigerant.
An added bonus of a Central Heat and Air system is that it also conditions the air by removing dirt, dust, mold spores and pollen by drawing air through the air filter. For people who have allergies regularly replacing the air filter and vacuuming is a must. Getting a duct cleaning may also help.