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Air Conditioning 101 – Pop Quiz; What Is a MERV? (and How Big Is a Micron?)

Please remember to use a sharpened, #2 pencil. Only one answer is correct.

Merv Griffin – Born in San Mateo, California, Merv Griffin was a singer, talk show host, creator and executive producer of Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy and all around media mogul with a net worth of 1 billion dollars.

Merv Bronte – Fictitious character played by Ray Romano on the hit TV show, The Office. Merv Bronte applied for the regional manager position at Dunder Mifflin-Sabre but was tricked into doing poorly on his own job interview.

Merv Ratings – Generally referred to as “MERV”, the Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value is a rating system that informs consumers how efficient an air filter is at blocking debris and tiny particles from entering your HVAC system. Created by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) to rate the effectiveness of air filters, MERV ratings set the industry standard for home and commercial air filters.

What Are Particulates and Microns?

As relates to home air conditioning and indoor air quality, particulate matter is a fancy way of saying dust, which can be measured in microns. An abbreviated term for “micrometer”, a micron is a unit of measurement. The length of one micron is equal to one millionth of a meter. Generally used in medical, technological and scientific applications, microns allow scientist to measure the tiniest particles floating in the air. The width of a human hair is 50-75 microns. The human eye cannot see anything smaller than 40 microns. A single red blood cell is 5 microns. Dust mite debris, pet dander, mold spores and hair spray residue can be between 3 – 10 microns, and so on.

What’s an Acceptable MERV Rating for Air Filters in a Home Air Conditioning System?

MERV ratings range from 1 to 20. A higher MERV rating indicates increased filtering ability, with denser material able to screen out smaller particles from passing through air filters. The idea with MERV ratings is to purchase filters with a high enough MERV rating to acceptably filter the air in your home. However, not so high as to create problems for your air conditioning system’s motors. In other words, air filters with extremely high MERV ratings are so dense they can cause your air conditioner to work harder and wear down faster. Hard drive manufacturing “clean” rooms or medical surgery units may require a MERV rating of 20 and accordingly, they will have special heavy-duty AC units installed for that purpose. Most residential air conditioning filters contain a MERV rating between 8-14. Here’s a breakdown of typical MERV ratings:

  • MERV Rating of 1 – 4

    To put it in perspective, lower quality air filters with a 1 to 4 MERV ratings are generally less expensive and, correspondingly, not as effective. These air filters will capture particles in the range of 10 microns or larger.

  • MERV Rating of 4 – 8

    Medium quality air filters with a MERV ratings between 4 to 8 can be made of coarse material such as folded cloth (more folds are better at gathering and holding tiny particles) and will screen out particulate matter 3 microns or larger.

  • MERV Rating of 9 – 12

    Higher quality air filters with a 9 to 12 MERV ratings are most common in residential applications and will filter out particles 1 to 3 microns or larger. Air filters in this range do a good job of keeping your indoor air quality clean without pushing your AC unit beyond its capabilities.

  • MERV Rating of 13 – 16

    These high quality MERV rated air filters can remove particles .03 microns or larger and might be found, for instance, in laboratories or hospital surgical units. Some homeowners with respiratory issues may want to consider using these denser, higher rated air filters.

  • MERV Rating of 17 – 20

    The highest rated MERV air filters are used in electronics, scientific and pharmaceutical manufacturing cleanrooms and generally require special AC units to handle the load. Air filters with this rating may also be referenced as HEPA or High Efficiency Particulate Air filters.

Which Air Filters Are Right for You and Your Family

Haboobs, swirling desert dust storms, fine particles of dirt and air pollution make indoor air quality a challenge for Phoenix area homeowners. MERV ratings, microns and particulate matters can and should be discussed with our friendly and knowledgeable service techs. If you notice yourself wheezing and sneezing more, if you have a child who suffers from asthma or a relative under respiratory distress, please give us a call. We’ll be happy to check your air filters and your entire AC system to ensure the cleanest air possible in your home.

Protecting Your Air Conditioning Unit During an Arizona Dust Storm

Monsoon season has hit late this year, but it’s finally here. That means a unique combination of strong winds, thunderstorms and dust clouds that can blanket the sky – and your air conditioning unit. If you’ve been wondering how to protect your AC system from harsh Arizona summer weather, you’re not alone. It’s a common concern that our customers raise.

First, there’s good news to share. Even the most ominous monsoon storm doesn’t usually impact the function of your air conditioner. That’s because it’s a closed system. That means that dust outside shouldn’t make its way inside your equipment. Thus, dust that does enter your home probably makes its way there via windows and doors. Yet, even though your air conditioner can handle a summer storm, it’s important to maintain it throughout the season to ensure it runs at peak performance. This means:

  • Changing filters on a regular basis

    Dust storms can lead to air filters becoming clogged faster than normal. And dirty filters reduce air flow, decreasing your system’s efficiency and ultimately making it work harder. Because monsoon dust storms happen every year, you may want to invest in washable electrostatic filters that can be cleaned instead of replaced.

  • Flushing the condensation line

    This task takes mere minutes, but it can help keep your system operating efficiently. Simply remove the line from your air conditioning unit and flush a mixture of water and bleach through it.

  • Checking ducts

    Extreme wind can sometimes blow your ducts out of position. And even a small opening in your ductwork can impact indoor air quality and your system efficiency. If you see hanging or open ducts, you can either screw them back together or tape them at the seam.

In the desert, your air conditioner is an essential piece of equipment. So, it only makes sense to take care of it before, during and after a monsoon storm. If you’re unable to maintain your unit or if you’d rather have a professional handle your maintenance, call Bruce’s Air today. We’re available 24 hours a day for all of your HVAC needs.

Ice on the Air Conditioner, Water Dripping Down Walls and Ducts – Common AC Summer Puzzlers

Every summer we receive calls from puzzled customers who ask, “Why do I have ice on my air conditioner?” A block of ice on an air conditioner is an unusual sight to see in the desert in the middle of July. During monsoon season, especially in the run up to a storm, the air is heavy with moisture. When humid air comes in contact with a cold surface, it causes droplets of water to form. Like condensation on a glass of iced tea, water forms on the cold metal pipes of your air conditioner’s evaporator. Simply put, when your AC unit is not adjusted properly, condensation will freeze, and the resulting ice may cause serious problems.

Condensation Can Cause Issues

When your air conditioner freezes up, you will notice the air blowing into your home is not as cold as it should be. Condensation can also form on your ducts and may cause dripping or water spots on your plaster ceiling or walls. Here’s a list of common problems that arise from AC-related condensation issues:

  • Lack of Sufficient Air Flow Across Your Coils

    One of the main reasons for an AC freeze is insufficient air flow across your evaporator coils. This can be caused by obstructions or dirt and grime on the coils which can build up over time. If you haven’t changed your air filters, this could be part of the problem.

  • Low Refrigerant

    When your air conditioner is low on refrigerant, a host of problems occur. Without going into a long technical explanation, less refrigerant causes the temperature of your evaporator coils to drop below freezing and when that happens, ice will form. If you do have ice on your AC unit, it’s best to turn off your air conditioner immediately and give us a call. Do not ignore the problem or continue to run your AC as this will cause further issues.

  • Water Spots on Ceilings or Walls

    When condensation forms on the ducts in your attic it can pool and drip down onto the plaster in your ceiling and cause nasty spotting. Sometimes with an improperly installed vent, cold air will cause condensation issues on walls. Wherever you have standing water or wet plaster, the potential for mold exists. We have observed many homes damaged by the constant drip, drip of condensation in places the homeowner has never seen (up in the attic.) If your ducts have gone unchecked for years and you notice spots on your ceiling, it might be time for an inspection.

Ice Belongs in Your Freezer, Not on Your Air Conditioner

If you’ve got ice on your air conditioner, you should call us immediately. Though it may seem like no big deal, water damage can be destructive, especially in places you can’t see. Let our expert service technicians check out your AC system and fix the problem ASAP. Give us a call today.

What to Expect When Installing a New Home Air Conditioning System

If you’re considering a new air conditioning system, you might have questions about the installation process. Especially if your AC unit is a rooftop model. Many Phoenix homeowners are surprised to learn, installing a new HVAC system can be less disruptive than it appears. That’s important to note, particularly if you’ll be installing during the hottest months of the year – July, August or September.

Whether your air conditioner is located on ground level or up on the roof, our experienced AC installation professionals are fast and efficient. Here is a brief overview of a typical AC installation. Disclaimer: All air conditioning systems are unique, and each installation presents its own set of challenges. These overview notes are provided as a general guideline.

It Takes Many Component Parts to Keep Your Home Cool

HVAC systems are incredibly complex and comprised of multiple components. Your heating, ventilation and air conditioning system has parts located both inside and outside your home as well as ducts and vents located above the ceiling and behind walls throughout your house. It’s a very complex system. The major components of your AC system include the compressor, condenser coil, evaporator, air handler, air ducts, vents and the thermostat. A successful installation will replace all the major parts, but generally leave the duct system in place. It is important, however, for the ducts to be inspected for cracks, leaks and general effectiveness. Our installers will check your duct system while preparing your estimate.

How Long Does an Installation Take?

There are many variables when purchasing a new air conditioner for your home. Depending on the system you’ve chosen, the age, size and layout of your home, whether you’re going with a ground level or rooftop model and the condition of your duct system – an installation can be accomplished in as little as one full day or it may stretch into multiple days. If we do not encounter any unusual circumstances, generally, installations will last anywhere from eight to 16 hours. A consultation with one of our installers will help establish a more specific timeline for your installation.

How to Prepare for Your AC Installation

During the summer months, perspiring Phoenix homeowners often ask, is there anything I can do to speed up the installation process? Naturally, our goal is to get your new system running as quickly as possible. Having your home ready will help. Here are some steps you can take to ensure the installation goes smoothly:

  • Clear the Area Around Your AC Unit

    Full access to the areas where your current components are located will make it easier for the installers to do their job. It’s important to have a clear path to the outdoor condenser. Bushes, branches or overgrown greenery should be cleared. Try to make sure toys, bikes, patio furniture and other obstacles are removed.

  • Clear the Driveway for Equipment Delivery – Space for Trucks and a Crane

    When the components are being delivered, a fair amount of space will be required on your driveway. If your unit is being installed on the roof, an HVAC boom crane will need clearance close to your house. Flowerpots, planters and patio furniture may need to be moved. Our installer will let you know in advance. When installation day arrives, it’s advisable to remove all vehicles from the garage and park your cars on the street so you won’t get blocked in. If you have an RV, you might want to move that also.

  • Ducts – Inspection, Repair and Replacement

    If your home requires extensive repair or replacement of ducts, the team will be working in the attic and throughout your house. It’s a good idea to move or clear storage containers and boxes from the areas of the attic where the ductwork is installed. Unfortunately, some dirt and dust will be raised while working on ducts. It is unavoidable. Our goal is to minimize dust and prevent dirt from circulating throughout your house.

  • Kids and Pets

    We always promote safety first. Kids are naturally curious. We ask, if at all possible, please keep children indoors while work is being done. When it comes to pets, dogs are not always thrilled to see us. Please keep pets corralled inside during installation.

For More Installation Information – Just Give Us a Call

We understand that a new air conditioner is a major purchase and installation can be stressful. The goal of our installers is to get the cold air flowing ASAP and to keep the disruption of your home to a minimum. For more information on installing a new air conditioning system in your home, please give us a call.

Don’t Let Your Air Conditioning Skyrocket This Fourth of July

The Fourth of July is the time for backyard barbecues, parades and firework displays. And for Arizonans, Independence Day is also about hot temperatures – sizzling hot. The kind of temperatures that send your utility bill skyrocketing like a Fourth of July firework.

To help keep your mind on the holiday’s fun and festivities instead of on your thermostat and next month’s utility bill, we have a few cost-saving tips to share.

Run the Fans

Moving air helps evaporate sweat from the skin. Evaporational cooling is an energy-efficient and effective process that you can take advantage of by simply turning on your ceiling fans. In fact, this one simple action can make a room feel several degrees cooler than it actually is.

Avoid the Stove and Oven

It’s the Fourth of July – time to fire up the barbecue and enjoy cold foods like potato salad and watermelon. By not cooking during hot spells, you can reduce indoor heat and lessen the load on your air conditioner.

Consider Humidity

If the air isn’t humid, turn your air conditioner fan speed on high. This helps circulate the air and improves the efficiency of your air conditioner. However, on those muggy monsoon-like days, turn the fan speed to low. The slower air movement through your air conditioning system will remove more moisture from the air, making you feel cooler.

Take a Dip

Water cools you down – plain and simple. So, take a cool shower, soak in a bath, hop in a pool or run in the sprinklers on your front lawn. You’ll chill out quickly without having to amp up your AC.

Happy Fourth of July from our family to yours! Have a safe and wonderful holiday.