Heating & Cooling FAQs

Common Heating & Cooling FAQs

Tom’s Heating Service has been in business for over 60 years, so you can bet we’ve heard and have an answer for just about every home comfort question there is. Whether you have a quick one-off inquiry or are hoping to brush up on your HVAC knowledge, read through these frequently asked questions (FAQs) about heating and cooling. We’re covering the most common questions, including if you really need furnace and AC maintenance every year and what the average system lifespan is.

Does my system really need maintenance every year?

Yes! Maintenance is the only way to keep your heating and cooling systems running safely and efficiently. During your annual tuneup, our pros will check all moving parts, clean your system, and fix any existing problems before they get worse. You’ll save money on energy bills, notice improved comfort and air quality, and extend your system’s lifespan. Ask us about our maintenance agreement so you never miss another appointment.

How can I save money on my heating and cooling bills?

There are a few simple things any homeowner can do to save on heating and cooling costs:

  • Keep blinds and curtains closed during the summer to keep the sun’s heat out—but open them on winter days to let the sun’s natural warmth in.
  • Leave your thermostat alone as much as possible—frequently adjusting the temperature up or down may make your system work harder to keep up.
  • Make sure leaky windows and doors aren’t letting your heating and cooling energy seep out and wasting money.

Find more tips from the Tom’s Heating pros on our heating and cooling energy efficiency tips page.

Why is my furnace blowing cold air?

Check your thermostat to make sure it’s turned on to the heat setting. If it is, look to see if your pilot light has gone out or if your air filter is dirty. Both of these problems can cause cold air to come out of your registers. Don’t hesitate to call a professional for furnace repair if these tips don’t work—you could have a more serious problem on your hands that can become dangerous quickly.

What is the average lifespan for home comfort systems?

Lifespans depend on how well you take care of your system and what kind of system you use, but here are the industry averages:

  • Furnace: 15 to 18 years
  • Boiler: 15 to 30 years
  • Air Conditioner: 10 to 15 years
  • Heat Pump: 10 to 15 years

How often should I replace my air filter?

There isn’t one firm rule on how often to replace your air filter—it depends on what type your system uses. If it has a standard, one-inch filter, you should replace it every 60 to 90 days—or more often if you have pets or if someone in your home suffers from allergies. Just keep an eye on it and replace it with a new one when it starts to look dirty. If you use a media or HEPA filter, you can go as long as six months to a year without replacing or cleaning it. If your filter type isn’t referenced, please feel free to call and ask one of our knowledgeable experts. Here are a few factors that will shorten the life of your filter:

  • Smoking in your home
  • Burning candles
  • Cooking without ventilation
  • Aging carpet
  • Living near busy roads or industrial areas
  • Leaving windows/doors open allowing dust and dirt to enter the home

Why is there ice on my air conditioner?

Ice forms on air conditioners when there isn’t enough airflow over the evaporator coils—which often happens when the air filter is clogged with dirt. Your system could also be low on refrigerant. If you notice ice on your AC, immediately turn it off and let it “thaw” out. Check to see if your filter is dirty (gray or black)—if so, replace it with a new one. If the filter looks clean, call a Tom’s Heating expert at 262-548-1300 for help.

What Do the Different HVAC System Ratings Stand For?

Here’s a breakdown of system ratings from our experts:

  • Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV)—measures how effectively air filters capture airborne pollutants. A higher rating indicates that more particles can be captured.
  • Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER)—measures air conditioner efficiency during cooling season. The higher the rating, the more efficient your AC is.
  • Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE)—measures how much energy your furnace or boiler converts to heat. A higher percentage means better efficiency.
  • British Thermal Unit (BTU)—represents how much energy a boiler, air conditioner, or heat pump needs to increase/decrease the temperature of one pound of water by one degree. BTU doesn’t represent efficiency, but rather the system’s capacity.
  • Heating Seasonal Performance Factor (HSPF)—ratio of BTU heat output over the heating season to watt hours of electricity used. This rating measures the efficiency of air source heat pumps. A higher rating indicates higher efficiency.

Which heating system is better—a furnace or a boiler?


Boilers and furnaces are both fantastic heating system options. If you’re picking a system for a new construction home or business, our experts will weigh the pros and cons of each option with you and then help you decide which is best for your space. If you currently use a furnace or boiler to heat your home, we recommend that you stick with the same system because retrofitting to include pipes or ductwork can be a long, expensive process. Not sure which is better for your home? We’re happy to walk you through your choices.

What’s the difference between an air conditioner and a heat pump?


The big difference between these two systems is that an air conditioner only provides cooling comfort and a heat pump provides both heating and cooling. Air conditioners are definitely the more popular system option in Southeastern Wisconsin, but a heat pump can be a great alternative because it transfers heat energy from the air outdoors rather than burning fuel to create it. Ask our pros which would be better suited for your home.

Why is R-22 refrigerant (Freon) not being manufactured anymore?

R-22 refrigerant (Freon) was found to have a serious negative impact on the environment. It’s since been phased out of production and will no longer be available by 2020. If your air conditioner runs on R-22, don’t worry—you can still use your system safely, but know that a recharge will be expensive since supply is limited. It’s likely in your best interest to find a replacement system instead of paying for a pricey recharge along with the repair of the leak in the system, if parts are even available anymore. By law, you are only allowed to refill these systems one time without assuring that a leak is repaired—our pros can help you decide.

Bonus Tip:

Avoid a water emergency with the Honeywell Wi-Fi Water Leak and Freeze Detector. This smart monitor instantly alerts you at the first sign of a leak and also detects temperatures that can cause pipes to freeze and humidity that can damage valuables. It can even be reused after detecting an incident—simply wipe dry and put it back in place. This affordable tool can save you thousands by avoiding potential water damage.
Want more information after reading these frequently asked questions? Just give us a call at 262-548-1300 or submit your inquiry online. And check out our blog to discover even more helpful information.