- Posted by hinged
- On April 28, 2017
Using simple physics, air conditioning magically transforms our interior environments from slow broil to wonderfully cool. Freon, a chemical that easily changes from liquid to gas and back at temperatures and pressure in a range that brackets our comfort zone, circulates like blood through the system. It is alternatingly compressed into liquid where it gives off heat outside your house and allowed to expand into gas inside your house where it sucks up heat. Forcing the Freon to circulate, compressing it, pushing the heat out and the cold air around your house takes a lot of energy, usually in the form of electricity which can be very expensive, so it pays to keep your AC system running at peak efficiency.
There are serious economic, geo-political, ecological and philosophical issues that involve air conditioning that we’re not going to address at this time. Instead we’ll stick with saving money and energy by keeping systems in top shape. This requires specialized tools and technical knowledge that not many homeowners have but a quick inspection is a good place to start.
The first step in an A/C tune up is the filters in the ducts that push the air around your house. If they are dirty, the fan will have to work harder to push air through them. Most systems have replaceable cartridges, but many also have filters that are meant to be removed, cleaned and reinstalled. If the duct work is used for heating and cooling changing and cleaning the filters should be done at a minimum twice a year. You will usually find them either immediately behind the grill on the return duct or next to the large metal box in the basement or attic that is your air handler. Before you turn the unit off to change the filters feel around for air leaks. Pay special attention to the ducts on the opposite end of the air filter. This is the supply side and air in this section is under the most pressure.
The air handler is where the liquid Freon is allowed to expand into its gaseous state which is the process that produces the cooling. When the warm humid air entering your air handler is cooled below the dew point, moisture condenses into water which collects in a pan and then flows or is pumped out of your house. Look around the unit for water leaks. There are many potential problems: water collection pans can develop rust holes, the fittings can come loose, the pump can clog, the hoses can leak, the switch that turns the pump on can fail and these are just if the system is designed, installed and operated correctly. Clogged filters, low Freon, incorrectly installed ducts and other problems can lead to a freeze situation where ice builds up inside the air handler. Eventually when the system goes off, the ice melts and more water than the condensate pan can handle leaks out. Water stains at the bottom of the air handler or on the floor around it are a clear sign that competent, professional service is needed.
The second step of your AC inspection is to look outside at the other end of the system. The metal box that usually has a grill of some sort at the top and a fan inside and a radiator around the sides is commonly known as the condenser. It is here that the Freon is compressed to its liquid state and heat is drawn off. The fan blows air over the radiator dispersing the heat outside your house. If the radiator is dirty or if plants have grown up to or into the unit, it won’t operate efficiently. A unit that has settled on a slant will not only loose efficiency, but will also have extra strain on the compressor and fan leading to premature failure.
If you find any of the issues described here, schedule service with a skilled professional like the ones available on Hinged as soon as possible.
Your service should include the following items at a minimum:
Cleaning and or replacement of filters.
Inspecting, cleaning and lubrication of air handlers.
Inspecting and cleaning of drain pans, condensate pumps and lines.
Testing of overflow emergency shut offs.
Inspecting control boxes and wiring connections.
Monitoring system operation for proper function as per manufacturers specifications.
Checking for correct refrigerant level.
Checking high and low side system pressures.
Cleaning dirt, plants, leaves, mulch from outdoor components.
Inspection of base pan for clogged openings.
Cleaning radiator coil and cabinet as needed.
Inspection of compressor for proper function and damage.