Do It Yourself A/C Repair

How Air Conditioning Works

How an air conditioner works
To better understand how to repair an air conditioner we need to understand how air conditioners actually work. The process starts at your thermostat. Once you have adjust your thermostat to become more comfortable the air conditioning system turns on. The warm air in your home, represented by the orange arrows, are drawn into your return air vent and pass through your filter.The air then moves across your evaporator coil, in blue, and becomes cooled. The air is then distributed throughout your home and the process continues until your thermostat reaches the temperature you specified. So how does the evaporator coil become cold? This is accomplished using your outside condenser unit and the copper lines which carries the refrigerant. With so many moving parts it is a wonder that air conditioners don’t break down more often.

Air Conditioning Drain Lines

8419723When your air conditioner is operating while in the cooling mode it removes heat from your home. This happens when the warm air passes across your cold evaporator coil in the attic. As the warm air passes across the coil condensation occurs and water beings to form and move down into a drain line. This drain line empties into a drain. There are times when this drain line becomes clogged with plenty of nasty things like algae, dirt, and rust. When this happens your water then beings to drain into an “emergency” drain system. Most emergency drain systems flow to a PVC line that drains outside near a window, this is so you can see the dripping and know that there is a problem. This emergency drain line is not intended to function indefinitely and can become clogged as well. When this happens the water will begin to overflow and leak onto the Sheetrock of your ceiling. These Sheetrock repairs, depending on the damage, can be hundreds of dollars or more. There are some things that you can do to help prevent drain lines backing up.

    • Check outside your home and locate the emergency drain line. Once you have located this drain line check it from time to time for water dripping or for any blockage that may have occurred.
    • Ask your contractor if he treats your drain lines during maintenance (which we do) and if there is a place for you to treat the drain line yourself throughout the year.
    • Use about a cup of bleach to treat your air conditioning drain line in the opening shown in the photo. If you do not have an opening contact and air conditioning contractor, hopefully us, to install an opening to treat your drain line.
    • Don’t Wait! If you believe that your air conditioning system may have a drain problem contact your local air conditioning company quickly to resolve the problem.

Light Switches

Attic Light Switch

If your air conditioning system is located in your attic and if you have been into your attic then you have problem noticed that there are two light switches. One of the light switches controls the lights in your attic (sometimes this light switch may be located in the hallway near your attic access door) and the other light switch controls power to your furnace. It is very common for homeowners, electricians, cable repair companies, and roofers to sometimes flick this power switch on and off thinking that it is the light in the attic. Often times they will cause no damage to your system, or just reset your air conditioning system. Other times they will forget to set the switch back to its original position, essentially leaving the system turned off. Save yourself a service call by doing the following:

    • Label the light switch “LIGHT” in black marker and “HEATER” in red marker to ensure that if anyone is in the attic they will know which light switch to use.
    • Ask your friendly neighborhood HVAC contractor, hopefully us, to place electrical tape or some other kind of tape on the light switch that controls the furnace for you!
    • Check the light switch in your attic before calling the contractor. Even if the light switch is label sometimes it will still get bumped into or accidentally switched.

Air Conditioning FAQS

How much is my new air conditioner or heater going to cost?

This is, hands down, the most frequent question we receive. There are so many factors that contribute to the cost, that it is virtually impossible to accurately estimate the total cost without first seeing the house. However, it’s important to note that there are some factors you can choose and others you cannot. Here are some of the factors that determine the cost of your new system:

  1. Tonnage aka Size: HVAC Equipment is measured in tons. 1 Ton of Air Conditioning can remove 12,000 BTUs of heat from a space in an hour. The tonnage required for your air conditioner is dictated by several factors including the square footage of your home, the R-value of your insulation in walls and attics, the number of stories, the total square footage of your windows, and even the direction your windows face. The tonnage is a measurement of the total BTUs of heat coming into your home in one hour that will need to be offset by your air conditioner. Most residential homes require systems with 4 Tons or more, which is often split across multiple systems, and you don’t get to choose the tonnage (unless you make energy efficient improvements). Residential units are only sold up to 5 tons, and more than 5 tons requires at least 400 volt 3 phase electricity to run which is commonly seen in commercial units.
  2. Efficiency: You can choose the efficiency level of your new system as long as it meets or exceeds the minimums established by Department Of Energy. The minimum efficiency rating in Texas for a new system is 14 SEER. Customers upgrading to a 15 or 16 SEER system will enjoy increased energy savings over the 14 SEER system, while those choosing an 18 SEER or higher system will receive the maximum energy savings benefits.
  3. Gas or Electric Heat: While you could choose an electric heat system in a gas home, most people either use a gas furnace or an electric air handler based on whether or not their home has gas lines.
  4. Condenser or Heat Pump: In areas like San Antonio, heat pumps can be a wise investment. They are capable of reversing the refrigerant cycle to heat homes, even when the outdoor air temperatures dip into the low 30s.
  5. Ducts: The condition of your ductwork is a major factor in the operational efficiency of your HVAC system. Torn or leaking ducts will deliver less air to desired locations, reducing efficiency and causing your new system to work harder than necessary. Be sure to have your ductwork inspected and consult with your contractor on whether or not duct repairs or replacements are a necessary cost with your new AC system.

What is the correct Thermostat setting?

This is a tricky question, mostly because it is different for everyone. With that being said, the “correct” thermostat setting for the summer months is 78°F. This temperature is generally the most efficient temperature that an air conditioner operates at during the summer months.

Should I turn my Thermostat off when I leave?

No! When you turn your thermostat to off you are allowing the furnishing of your home to start retaining heat. This means that carpets, beds, and couches retain the heat from your hot home. When you arrive home and adjust your thermostat back to “on” or “cool” it will take significantly longer to achieve the temperature you want and cost in energy efficiency by operating much longer. The solution to this is setting your thermostat at a higher temperature while you are away, around 80 degrees, and lowering it when you arrive home. This will keep the furnishing in your home from retaining too much heat while keeping your energy bill low.

What is a 2-Stage Unit?

A 2-stage compressor is an amazing leap froward in energy efficient air conditioning systems. A 2-stage compressor is just what it sounds like. There is a high speed and a low speed to your compressor. This allows for a lot more control when cooling your home and removing humidity. When needing only a degree or two of cooling the low speed turns on using only a portion of the electricity instead of using the full amount.

Why are my vents blowing warm air?

The first thing you should do is check the thermostat to confirm that it is on the correct setting. Your thermostat should be on cool during the summer and heat during the summer. The fan setting should always be set to auto, not on. If your thermostat is in the correct setting and your vents aren’t blowing cool air call your local air conditioning repair service.

How often should I change my Filters?

This depends on several factors such as the type of filter you have, the amount of people in your home, if you have pets, and how often you use your air conditioning system. As a rule of thumb if you have a 1 inch filter in your return filter grill then you should replace it once a month. If you have the 5 inch filter then you should replace this twice a year. Cooling capacity and comfort levels rely heavily on clean filters, therefore, it’s important to change them out as frequent as needed.

What type of filter should I use?

Filtering the air in your home is very important due to the amount of indoor air pollutants that accumulate in your home. The type of filter depends on which kind of filter you can use. If you have a filter “box” in your attic that allows for the use of a five inch thick pleated filter you should use this type of filter. This kind of filter only needs to be changed twice a year and filters almost ten times what a one inch filter would be able to handle. If you are only able to use one inch filters do not use the “high efficiency” filters. These filters do filter the air better, however they are more expensive and the amount that they filter versus the cheaper filters is only marginal. Also if you forget to change these “high efficiency” filters you can cause an air restriction which can harm your system and cause problems with your system later on.

AC Maintenance Tips

Homeowner AC Maintenance Tips

While your air conditioner unit is located outside your home there are things you can do inside and outside your home that can increase the life and efficiency of your AC system. Some of these things are:

      • Clean dust and move anything that may be impeding the air flow into each room. Don’t forget about the large “return” grate, usually in a hallway or other main area of your home. This grate is one of the most important and often forgotten grates. This grate removes the warm air in your home and processes it through your air conditioning system to remove the heat and supply it to the rest of your home.
      • Clear leaves and debris from your AC unit. If you notice that the coil is dirty you may need to contact a HVAC contractor, hopefully us, to administer a powerful cleaner to remove the dirt buildup.
      • Examine your ductwork at a regular basis for tears or holes that may leak air.
      • Allow two feet of clearance from your outside condenser and any other shrubs, trees, or bushes.
      • If you hear any unusual noises coming from your air conditioning system contact a HVAC contractor.
      • Replace your AC filter on a regular basis.

Homeowner Heater Maintenance Tips

Your heater not only heats your home, it moves the air throughout your home. Maintaining your heater complements the tips given for maintaining your a/c unit. Following these tips will ensure that your heating system will operate at peak efficiency for many years to come. Some of these tips are:

  • Clear away anything that blocks access to the furnace and never store anything on top of the furnace.
  • Check for any breaks or cracks in the vent connections from the exhaust pipe.
  • Make sure that your CO2 monitor is operating properly and has fresh batteries.

Energy Star Maintenance Check-Up

A typical AC maintenance check-up should include the following.

  • Check thermostat settings to ensure the cooling and heating system keeps you comfortable when you are home and saves energy while you are away.
  • Tighten all electrical connections and measure voltage and current on motors. Faulty electrical connections can cause unsafe operation of your system and reduce the life of major components.
  • Lubricate all moving parts. Parts that lack lubrication cause friction in motors and increases the amount of electricity you use.
  • Check and inspect the condensate drain in your central air conditioner, furnace and/or heat pump (when in cooling mode). A plugged drain can cause water damage in the house and affect indoor humidity levels.
  • Check controls of the system to ensure proper and safe operation. Check the starting cycle of the equipment to assure the system starts, operates, and shuts off properly.

Cooling Specific

  • Clean evaporator and condenser air conditioning coils. Dirty coils reduce the system’s ability to cool your home and cause the system to run longer, increasing energy costs and reducing the life of the equipment.
  • Check your central air conditioner’s refrigerant level and adjust if necessary. Too much or too little refrigerant will make your system less efficient increasing energy costs and reducing the life of the equipment.

An and adjust blower components to provide proper system airflow for greater comfort levels. Airflow problems can reduce your system’s efficiency by up to 15 percent
.
Heating Specific

Check all gas connections, gas pressure, burner combustion and heat exchanger. Improperly operating gas connections are a fire hazard and can contribute to health problems. A dirty burner or cracked heat exchanger causes improper burner operation. Either can cause the equipment to operate less safely and efficiently.

Actions To Do Yourself

Inspect, clean, or change air filters once a month in your central air conditioner, furnace, and/or heat pump. Your contractor can show you how to do this. A dirty filter can increase energy costs and damage your equipment, leading to early failure.

Install a programmable thermostat

A programmable thermostat is ideal for people who are away from home during set periods of time throughout the week. Through proper use of pre-programmed settings, a programmable thermostat can save you about $180 every year in energy costs.

Going Green

What is High Efficiency?

High efficiency is defined by the SEER rating and the EER of the air conditioning and heating system. Increasing your SEER and EER on your system reduces the amount of energy that is required to operate the system and reducing the amount of emissions that the system produces. The investment into going green is not nearly as expensive as it once was, while it is true that high efficiency systems are more expensive on the front end, they can save up to 40% off of your utility bill. These energy savings pay for most high efficiency systems in under five years.

Refrigerant Phase Out

According to the Department of Energy, air conditioning and heating systems are responsible for nearly 50% of energy usage in a typical U.S. home, and are responsible for nearly 100 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions every year. Since the 1990s the E.P.A has been increasing the restrictions on the type of refrigerant that is used in most air conditioning systems today known as R-22. On January 1st, 2010 the E.P.A. outlawed the manufacture of equipment charged with R-22 refrigerant and have reduced the amount of manufactured R-22 refrigerant for repairing existing systems. By the year 2020 R-22 will no longer be manufactured.

What does this mean for me? The E.P.A. has increased these restrictions and reduced the manufacture of R-22, which means that the cost of R-22 has been rising drastically and will continue to rise. If you have an R-22 system consider your next large repair carefully. Ask your technician about the cost to repair vs. the cost to replace with a R-410a system , which is the new refrigerant approved by the E.P.A. If you would like to know more about how going green can benefit you and your family, call Amazing Air Solutions today. Your Solution for Complete Comfort!

Regional Efficiency Standards

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With the refrigerant phase-out, there is a new enforcement plan for regional standards. In the Southeast and Southwest regions, 13 SEER split system and single package central air conditioners manufactured prior to January 1, 2015, may be installed in the South and Southwest regions until July 1, 2016. What does this mean for homeowners? It means eventually you cannot purchase and install a system that doesn’t have a seasonal energy efficiency ratio rating of at least 14, and with older units using R-22, homeowners must upgrade to a better more efficient central air conditioning system. At Amazing Air Solutions, let us take care of all the confusing technical details and help you get more comfortable.