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Old 07-23-2011, 10:09 AM  
Baconeater Baconeater is offline
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Simple AC tips to help keep your cool this summer

Hey CP peeps, I'm willing to bet some of you have noticed it's freaking hot outside. And since I've spent the last year going to school for HVAC, I thought I'd share some things I've learned about air conditioning systems. If you don't think yours is operating properly, here are some simple things you can check out on your own.

First off, check your outside unit. On it you will find two copper tubes coming from the house and into the unit. Touch them both.

The larger one (low side), should be insulated and cold to the touch, similar to a can of beer coming out of the fridge. If it's warm, or frosted, it likely means that your refrigerant level is off. Call a professional.

The smaller one (high side) should be warm, but not uncomfortable to the touch. If it's hot enough that you can't leave your fingers on it, it very likely means that your condensing coil is dirty, and it can't properly release the heat that the system is trying to remove from your home, and it's not going to run efficiently ($$$$). It can also make the compressor run hotter than normal, thereby shortening its life (more $$$$).

If your coil is as dirty as the one pictured here



you can make a significant improvement in performance simply by shutting the system down and thoroughly hosing it off, but the most effective way to clean one is from the inside with a high-pressure spray tip since dirt, cotton from cottonwood trees and even lawn clippings can get embedded into the coil. This is also something that can be done yourself, but if you're not comfortable opening up the unit, call a pro to have it cleaned. Again, let me emphasize that the system needs to be SHUT OFF while doing this. The condenser should be cleaned at least once a year, and maybe more depending on the conditions.

Lastly, a few things on airflow, which is key to keeping your home cool.

Check the furnace filter. Does it look more like a throw rug than the filter you stuck in there six months ago? Time to change it out. In the summertime, I recommend the cheap, flimsy ones. While that super duper pleated hypo-allergenic $25 one that Paul Harvey recommended may do a better job of cleaning your air, it's only because it's letting less air through it. There are better ways to clean your air other than choking off your airflow.

Is your humidifier bypass (if equipped with one) closed? Check for a 6" round duct going into your humidifier. There should be a handle somewhere on it, or on the humidifier itself, and it should be marked "summer/winter" or "high/low". Turn it to the summer/low position, or if it's not marked, the handle should be perpendicular to the airflow. Having this open when the AC is running can kill your efficiency by as much as 25% on its own.

You also want to keep all your supply/return vents clear, and open. Your system is designed to move a certain amount of air, and closing off a bunch of vents isn't necessarily going to help keep the other rooms any cooler. If you notice significant differences in temperatures from room to room, try turning the thermostat to "Fan On". On that setting, the AC will still cycle normally as needed to maintain the desired temperature, but the fan will run continuously which may help keep all rooms a more consistent temperature.

Hopefully these suggestions help some of you, I know they've made a difference in my house.
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Old 07-23-2011, 10:51 AM   #16
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That's what I always thought as well, but I was told by several people who are a hell of a lot smarter than me that it's not the case.
It saves on the ac unit but it doesn't save on the bill.

So, you pick. More of a push on the AC to save a few bucks on the bill (shortening the life of the unit) or lengthening the life and overall production of your unit while paying a bit more.
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Old 07-23-2011, 10:54 AM   #17
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What if you have 2 a/c units, one for upstairs and one for downstairs? I've heard all kinds of different advice on running one or both. Some say set both to same temp always; some say run only upstairs and let the cooler air drop to downstairs; and some say run the downstairs unit when you're downstairs and upstairs unit when you're upstairs.
Don't know for sure but when we have shut the upstairs unit off the downstairs unit has a harder time keeping the first floor cool.
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Old 07-23-2011, 11:08 AM   #18
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Don't know for sure but when we have shut the upstairs unit off the downstairs unit has a harder time keeping the first floor cool.
You never want to shut off an AC unit in the summer. Even if we get one of those rare 82 degree days, if you decide to shut it down and open your windows for only one day, the moisture you will let in will permeate your walls, carpet, furniture etc, and can take 3-5 days to get back out of your house once you turn your AC back on.
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Old 07-23-2011, 11:20 AM   #19
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At my first house the AC unit was located on the west side. Totally unshaded and during the afternoon/evening the unit was blistering hot because of the sun.

I built a large three sided well ventilated wooden cover to shade it and it made a difference in how quickly it could cool down the house.

When I built this house I designed it so the unit would sit on the east side out of sun during the peak cooling times of the day.
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Old 07-23-2011, 11:42 AM   #20
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Oh yeah, that reminds me. Another simple tip is to move to a cooler, drier climate.
Soak those lows in, soak 'em in:

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Old 07-23-2011, 11:56 AM   #21
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I wouldn't think that shutting of the supply vents to unused rooms would cause any issues. I would think that the volume of air that the fan pushes is what it is, and that closing off supply vents would simply allow that air to be pushed to the vents that are open.

Am I wrong?
Yes this is very wrong. The air moves through a piece of duct work. The duct work will only flow a certain amount of air. If you shut of vents you are putting external pressure on your blower motor which will make it work harder to try and attain the RPM's that it is suppose to turn. Which will make the motor get hot and over a period of time will make it burn out earlier than it should.
Another thing it can do is not move enough air across the indoor coil, the evaperator coil, which will make your system not cool properly and can send liquid back to the compressor in your outdoor unit causing it to slug and burn it out prematurely as well.
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Old 07-23-2011, 12:03 PM   #22
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So, if I turn the breaker off right by the outdoor A/C unit and remove the grate from the top I can blast the coil with water from the inside? Do I need to protect/avoid anything from the water as I do this?
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Old 07-23-2011, 12:04 PM   #23
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Bugeater, You are fixing to find out that you are going to be a very popular man. Especially in the worst of conditions since that is generally when a capacitor or a compressor or something else fails.
Your friends and family will be calling you and expecting it done for nothing or for a favor later or calling in a favor.
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Old 07-23-2011, 12:10 PM   #24
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What type of epa card did you get? I have been doing this stuff for 7 years. Been to a lot of classes. And to a lot of seminars by various equipment manufacture.
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Old 07-23-2011, 12:12 PM   #25
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[quote=Bugeater;7765718]Hey CP peeps, I'm willing to bet some of you have noticed it's freaking hot outside. And since I've spent the last year going to school for HVAC, I thought I'd share some things I've learned about air conditioning systems. If you don't think yours is operating properly, here are some simple things you can check out on your own.

First off, check your outside unit. On it you will find two copper tubes coming from the house and into the unit. Touch them both.

QUOTE]

Way too hot to go outside. Next.
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Old 07-23-2011, 12:12 PM   #26
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So, if I turn the breaker off right by the outdoor A/C unit and remove the grate from the top I can blast the coil with water from the inside? Do I need to protect/avoid anything from the water as I do this?
On most units the electrical components (contactor, capacitor) are in an isolated area and aren't an issue. You definitely want to avoid hitting those. The compressor and condenser fan motor are both sealed and can withstand some water on them.
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Old 07-23-2011, 12:15 PM   #27
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So, if I turn the breaker off right by the outdoor A/C unit and remove the grate from the top I can blast the coil with water from the inside? Do I need to protect/avoid anything from the water as I do this?
Blast might be a strong word here. And be careful going across the "grain" or the coil. You don't want to fold over the fins. The fins are what allow the air to take the temperature off of the refrigerant.
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Old 07-23-2011, 12:15 PM   #28
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Bugeater, You are fixing to find out that you are going to be a very popular man. Especially in the worst of conditions since that is generally when a capacitor or a compressor or something else fails.
Your friends and family will be calling you and expecting it done for nothing or for a favor later or calling in a favor.
I've been looking at some for free simply because I want the experience. But that will change next year. And I don't have the equipment yet to make major repairs.

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What type of epa card did you get? I have been doing this stuff for 7 years. Been to a lot of classes. And to a lot of seminars by various equipment manufacture.
I have a universal license. What's funny is you really don't need to know a whole lot to get it, you just need to be able to memorize a bunch of stuff. I've already run into several people who have them and really have no clue how to properly charge a unit.
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Old 07-23-2011, 12:21 PM   #29
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I've been looking at some for free simply because I want the experience. But that will change next year. And I don't have the equipment yet to make major repairs.


I have a universal license. What's funny is you really don't need to know a whole lot to get it, you just need to be able to memorize a bunch of stuff. I've already run into several people who have them and really have no clue how to properly charge a unit.
That is very true. A lot of people don't know how to use sub-cool, and super heat to charge units.
I have found a lot of people that want to use the "flash" technique to charge R-22 systems. I just have to laugh at them knowing they don't know what they are doing and charging someone for them to feel the suction line.
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Old 07-23-2011, 12:41 PM   #30
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That is very true. A lot of people don't know how to use sub-cool, and super heat to charge units.
I have found a lot of people that want to use the "flash" technique to charge R-22 systems. I just have to laugh at them knowing they don't know what they are doing and charging someone for them to feel the suction line.
That's pretty much what most of the other maintenance guys I work with do. The only thing that trips me up is trying to determine if a unit has a TXV or not. Sometimes you can't tell unless you open them up, and that isn't always an easy thing to do.
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