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hvac frequently asked questions

As a homeowner, we strive to maintain and improve our homes inside and out with the goal of creating a more comfortable place to live while saving time and money where we can. Your Heating and Air Conditioning system is the most critical component to keeping your home comfortable with our extreme Northern Nevada Climate. Here at Mountain West Heating and Air Conditioning, we wanted to aggregate some of the frequently asked questions pertaining to heating and air conditioning by our customers and provide answers to some of the most commonly asked questions:

  • How does an Air Conditioning System work?
    Air conditioners operate using the principles of refrigeration. It is the process of moving heat through a fluid medium such as refrigerant, from a place where it is not wanted (inside your home) and putting it somewhere else (outside). The cold air created by this process is moved by the fan and distributed through ducts throughout the home. The air conditioner in your home is made up of two pieces of equipment; the condensing unit which is outside, and the evaporator coil box which is attached to your furnace. They are connected with two refrigeration lines.
  • What Type of Heating System does my home have?
    Forced air furnace: with a forced air furnace system your home would typically have supply air vents in the floor or in the ceiling. This system would utilize either a natural gas, propane, or oil fuel source. Air To Air Heat Pump System: this system is not a very common stand-alone system in our region unless it is an inverter heat pump mini split system or paired with a forced air furnace making a “dual fuel” system. Heat Pumps utilize electricity as their power source. They do not use fossil fuels to generate a heating effect for the home. Radiant Heat (Boiler System): a radiant heat system typically uses a boiler (a powerful water heater) to heat water and distribute the water through piping in your floor or baseboard radiant heaters. Baseboard radiant heaters may also be completely electric.
  • Does my Heating and Air Conditioning System have an Air Filter? Where might it be in my home?
    Every home with a centralized furnace (connected to a duct system, distributed through the space with air vents and/or air conditioner should have a replaceable air filter. Your air filter is responsible for assisting in good indoor air quality as well as keeping the internal components of your furnace and evaporator coil clean. Do you know where your air filter is? There are a few places to start looking. Older furnaces were built with a filter rack inside the furnace. Another location may be in a “filter box” attached to the side of your furnace. The third and most common place is in the large air return grille, usually located near your thermostat on the wall or in the ceiling.
  • How often should I change my air filter?
    Is your air filter 1” thick, 2” thick, or 4” thick? Most homes will typically have one or two larger air grilles in their home. If your filter is located here, it is most likely 1” thick. The thicker the filter is, the more surface area it has, the longer life you should see out of it. How often the filter should be replaced is unique to each household. There are a myriad of factors that each homeowner should consider. We are no stranger to strong gusts of wind in our valleys which whips up dust, dirt and pollen, and pushes them into your house. If you deal with pollen allergies then changing your air filter more frequently will help to a degree, however there are secondary steps that can be made to aid in cleaner air. Do you have animals that live inside? If so, this is another factor leading to more frequent filter changes. Indoor air quality is a major concern, as many studies show that air pollution is much worse indoors than outdoors. A good practice is to set a reminder every month and visually inspect your filters’ condition. Remember, your filter material started out white! If it is starting to look dirty, or starting to sound louder around the filter, changing the filter more frequently may be required.
  • Is my equipment the correct size?
    Great question. There’s no easy answer for this one. A lot of factors will go into what size heating and cooling unit you’ll need. The type of house you own, its walls, insulation, attic space, and more can go into determining what size unit is required. We get both sides of this inquiry. “My equipment is not keeping up”, or “My equipment sounds like a freight train”. Furnaces and Air Conditioners, like cell phones have made leaps and bounds over the years in efficiencies, airflow design and movement of the air itself. The Department of Energy has placed many efficiency demands on motors, requiring them to move more air while consuming less energy. In many cases we will make a recommendation on equipment size based on many factors and the existing equipment size is at the bottom of the list. Your 25-year-old equipment was less efficient and therefore needed to be larger to overcome those inefficiencies. There are many antiquated “Rule of Thumb” fables that a salesman will use, so beware. If your existing system was a bit on the large size 25 years ago and someone replaces it with the same size equipment, chances are it will not be a good experience. As a homeowner, I want things to last. I would like to add an analogy that I have found to help with the understanding of modern equipment sizing. Most everyone has a vehicle. We perform scheduled maintenance on our vehicles, the same should be said for our HVAC equipment. When we purchase a vehicle, one piece of data we always compare is fuel economy. A vehicle will always achieve better fuel economy on the highway compared to the city. The same thing can be said for your furnace and air conditioner. They are more efficient running longer, as opposed to frequent start and stop. Your air conditioner draws the most energy at start-up. If your system satisfies your house in 5-10 minutes and stops, only to turn back on in 5 minutes it will affect your energy cost in a negative way; an appropriately sized HVAC system will be the most energy efficient. Bigger does not mean better.
  • Do I have to replace my entire system at the same time?
    The answer is typically yes. If your outdoor unit has reached the end of its useful life, then chances are the other components are close. Replacing the indoor equipment also allows the system to achieve the efficiency ratings of the new outdoor unit and per equipment manufacturers’ requirements, the equipment needs to match to gain the full warranty implied.
  • Should I cover my outdoor unit in the fall and winter?
    No, you do not have to. The outdoor unit was built and tested to be outside for its working life. Individuals who feel the need or desire to cover their outdoor unit must be vigilant in removing it before they use their air conditioner again. Failing to do so will severely damage the unit and in most cases cause permanent damage not covered under warranty. A good practice if you wish to cover your a/c unit is to turn power off to the unit at the same time to make certain it will not come on until you remove the cover again and turn power back on.
  • What is the current refrigerant being used?
    The current refrigerant being used is R-410a. The previous refrigerant for home air conditioning was R-22. They are not interchangeable with each other. R-410a was first introduced to residential cooling in 1996 and is slated to be phased out starting January 1st, 2025. The new EPA standards for a predecessor did not specify a specific refrigerant, just the Global Warming Potential (GWP) value. That means there will be multiple refrigerants being introduced based on what each manufacturer decides to use. We are being notified that currently two different refrigerants will primarily be used: R-454B and R-32. As the supply of R-22 gets lower, the price has become substantially higher. This makes the cost to repair older equipment much higher and ultimately undesirable.
  • How often should I get my Heating and Air Conditioning equipment serviced?
    Air conditioning and heating equipment, like everything else, is getting more and more expensive to repair and replace. To help your equipment along and perform its best we recommend semi-annual maintenance, once in the spring before summer, and once in the fall before winter. Annual Maintenance on your newly installed equipment is required by each Manufacturer to meet the requirements of their implied warranty periods.
  • What is a Dual Fuel System?
    This type of system is becoming more and more popular as innovation in our industry has allowed efficient use of Heat Pump units in our region. The system uses 2 energy sources for its heating; fossil fuel and electricity. A primary use of this is when using LP (liquid propane) gas for heating. Implementing a Heat Pump as a primary heating source and using fossil fuel as a backup to help offset some of the fuel cost. Other benefits include lower temp rise from the heat pump source thus stripping less of our already low humidity in the winter.
  • Are Heat Pumps right for this region?
    In Northern Nevada, heat pumps have not been the norm over the years. The reason for this is up until the last five or so years heat pumps were not a viable and reliable source of heating below 40 degrees Fahrenheit ambient temperature. Due to this, heat pumps required backup electric heat strips which ultimately did most of the work in our cold climate. With modern VRF (variable refrigerant flow) and inverter technology, heat pumps can now effectively be used as a primary source of heating down to below 0 degrees Fahrenheit. However, that does not mean every heat pump can achieve this, so please be aware of what you are buying.
  • Do I need to have my duct work cleaned?
    This is a simple cause and effect. If you have lived in your house your whole life, maintained your air filters and kept a clean house then most likely no. A lot of the older houses here have vents in the floor. The disadvantage is that’s where everything ends up. Kids toys and crumbs for me. If you do have vents on the floor a recommendation is to lift the vent off and use your vacuum down to the elbow of the duct. This can help with noises and odors. Plus, you may find a treasure or two while you are down there! If you have moved into a new-to-you-home and would like a fresh start on the house, then there are certainly a few companies in town to assist. Try and use a company where duct cleaning is one of their primary offerings. We refer to two companies in town; we do not offer duct cleaning services.

Family owned and operated

 As a customer of Mountain West, you can expect direct and timely communication with the owner and lead technician Andrew Morrell. Andrew and his team will work to complete your required services in an efficient and timely manner, ensuring you aren’t left without your HVAC system during the extremes of Northern Nevada’s weather.

WHAT Customers SAY

Darrell, Reno

I found Mountain West Air Conditioning on line and called. Andrew said he could be there the next day. I met him at the house and in 30 minutes the AC was blowing cold air. He charged the system and replaced some worn parts.
Excellent prompt service, very professional and fair prices.

Brock, Reno

Andrew was very nice. He was patient in explaining the problem and options for how to fix the problem.

Debra, Sparks

Andrew contacted me within 5 minutes and scheduled my repair that same afternoon. He was professional and got the job done in record time. He had all the parts on the service vehicle so he didn't need to leave the premises. I would definitely use them again.

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