Air Conditioning System Installation Extras
Air Conditioning System Installation “Extras”
An ounce of prevention, or a pound of cure? Prevention, please.
There are a handful of extras for AC systems that aren’t required to have the AC make cold and they raise the cost and as such, aren’t included in AC installation quotes and their ensuing installations. However they are of great value to AC system owners as they help preserve the system’s reliability and longevity, improve its effectiveness and efficiency, keep it operating as quietly as possible, and make it quicker and less costly to identify a leak in the system, something that can be quite laborious and therefore costly to find.
My personal opinion is that we as your contractor don’t do right by you if we try to keep your AC installation as cheap as possible, shaving the cost of the AC quote down by 10%, at the expense of the creating a loud, inefficient, problematic system that requires frequent repairs.
These future repairs would cost you far more than the 10% we shaved off the quote. Many companies view these extras as optional—we view them as far too valuable to the AC system owner to leave out.
Well the first isn’t actually an item at all, but rather the people. Talented AC installers are in short supply in the Calgary area, largely because there isn’t year-round demand for residential AC, so there are very few Refrigeration and AC Mechanics offering residential heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), relative to how many Sheet Metal Workers are in the local HVAC industry.
The proper installation of an AC system however is too critical to the AC system’s performance and reliability to chance with the average Joe. We use a journeyman Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Mechanic — our founder and president, who is also a journeyman Sheet Metal Worker, journeyman Plumber, and journeyman Gasfitter B Class, to design our AC system. We also have two journeyman Refrigeration and AC Mechanics as installers, an apprentice Refrigeration and AC Mechanic that’s only months away from achieving his journeyman credential, and a journeyman Sheet Metal Worker that’s the son of a former SAIT Refrigeration and AC Mechanic apprenticeship instructor— the apple didn’t fall far from the tree with that chap.
Yes, talented, well trained, experienced AC installers cost more than less skilled installers do, up front at least, though in the long run they’re worth their weight in gold, eventually saving the owners of the AC systems they install far more money than they cost, not to mention sparing them the headaches of having a chronically problematic AC and the time wasted dealing with those frequent breakdowns.
Mechanical refrigeration, which is what AC is, is a complex science, and if these systems are designed and installed only 95% perfect, they’re going to be 75% as quiet, efficient, effective and reliable as they should be. AC installations should be done right, or not at all; cutting costs by cutting corners on an AC system installation will cost far more than it saved.
Freeze Protection Thermostat
The freeze protection thermostat is a device that monitors the temperature of the AC system and will automatically shut off the AC compressor if it detects the system is freezing up, usually caused by a dirty or highly-restrictive furnace filter, and will allow the furnace fan to continue to run thawing out the system and still provide cooling during that time. It will re-engaging the AC compressor once the system is thawed out. This allows the AC system to continue to provide the home with effective cooling in these conditions without rapidly expediting the degradation of the AC compressor, the heart of the AC system.
Low Ambient Temperature Protection Thermostat
The low ambient temperature protection thermostat monitors the outdoor air temperature and will not allow the AC compressor to turn on below 13C, as below that temperature, the oil inside the AC compressor is like glue. Starting the compressor below that temperature puts a great deal of strain on the compressor, rapidly expediting its degradation.
Time Delay Relay
The time delay relay device ensures there’s a minimum off-time for the compressor between run cycles, protecting the AC compressor from quickly burning out in the event of a thermostat malfunction. It causes it to stutter the on signal to the AC — the Nest thermostat is particularly bad for this, if the C wire connection between the Nest and furnace which Nest’s installation literature cites as “optional” isn’t connected.
Outside of running in conditions that the 3 previously mentioned extra components will protect the AC compressor from, most of the wear and tear on the compressor comes from starting up. It generates 5x the heat while starting than it does while running, and it’s the refrigerant it’s moving while running that cools it down, so during its start-up period, it is generating the most heat with the least cooling, and that heat is degrading the compressor with each start-up. Adding a start-assist capacitor to the system effectively gives the compressor a jump-start every single time it starts up, keeping the start-up period as short as possible, reducing the heat generated, thus preserving the compressor.
Thermostatic Expansion Valve
Think of the thermostatic expansion valve (TXV) as AC cooling capacity cruise control. This device automatically regulates the amount of cooling the AC system provides at any given moment based on the amount of cooling required at that time, allowing the system to operate as a smaller capacity, and thus quieter and more efficient system when it can, and as a larger and therefore more effective system when it needs to.
Refrigerant Leak Sealant Additive with UV Tracer Dye
Think of this leak sealant additive as the AC equivalent of run-flat tires for an automobile. Sooner or later, all AC systems will develop a refrigerant leak. These leaks can be quite laborious and costly to find, and as refrigerants are classed as an ozone-depleting substance, we have both a professional and ethical responsibility to avoid or minimize those leaks when possible. To that end, we inject a refrigerant leak sealant additive with a UV tracer dye to our AC installations so that when that leak eventually does develop, the sealant additive reacts with oxygen at the leak to automatically plug it, and should the leak be too aggressive for the sealant to completely arrest it, the UV tracer dye in the additive makes it far quicker and thus far less costly to find that leak. Minimizing environmental impact while saving the homeowner money— win-win!
Some local AC contractors don’t add any of these extras (or charge for them as optional upgrades), most local contractors add 1 to 3 of these extras to their standard AC installation, we’re the only local contractor adding all 6 these features to every new AC system we and install as part of our standard AC system quotes and their ensuing installs.