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Old 07-23-2011, 09:09 AM  
Bacon Cheeseburger Bacon Cheeseburger 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, 03:30 PM   #61
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Well yeah, the problem with that is you can't plant big trees. You have to plant small ones and wait for the damn things to grow.
Stick with HVAC advice. You can transplant any size of tree if you've the money, space, and water.
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Old 07-23-2011, 03:35 PM   #62
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Stick with HVAC advice. You can transplant any size of tree if you've the money, space, and water.
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Duly noted.
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Old 07-23-2011, 03:38 PM   #63
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I live in an apt and the crawlspace that houses my AC scares me. It doesn't work worth shit. Bug, you can take a look the next tme you are in town.
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Old 07-23-2011, 04:10 PM   #64
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I live in an apt and the crawlspace that houses my AC scares me. It doesn't work worth shit. Bug, you can take a look the next tme you are in town.
Oh yeah got to love them crawl spaces. Better than an attic this time of year where it is 200+
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Old 07-23-2011, 04:25 PM   #65
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I live in an apt and the crawlspace that houses my AC scares me. It doesn't work worth shit. Bug, you can take a look the next tme you are in town.
Crawl space?

Most apartments either have the units outside or on the roof. Either way though, you should have a maintenance guy that can look at it for you. No guarantees he knows what the hell he is doing though.
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Old 07-23-2011, 05:47 PM   #66
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No this will not work like you are thinking at all.
Blower are sized by the size of the system that they are put into.
If you have a 5 ton Air Handler it has a motor and a blower wheel sized to move 2000 cfm's of air. If you restrict or block off half of the registers in your home it will make the blower slow down because it can't move that air. Then that air becomes a restriction. When the blower slows down it won't even be able to pull half of the normal amount of air. Also when you do this and it can't move enough air across the coil and that will cause the coil to freeze up. Along with all of this you are making that motor work hard pulling more amps, costing your more energy, as well as the motor uses that air to keep itself cool.
Interesting. In November my wife and I bought a house way bigger than what we need because we both hate moving and don't want to have to move when we decide to have kids.

I've had half the house shut down all summer; I was thinking exactly like Dave Lane is thinking. I guess that was a mistake.
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Old 07-23-2011, 06:09 PM   #67
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Interesting. In November my wife and I bought a house way bigger than what we need because we both hate moving and don't want to have to move when we decide to have kids.

I've had half the house shut down all summer; I was thinking exactly like Dave Lane is thinking. I guess that was a mistake.
Man I thought the same thing forever as well. It's hard to wrap your mind around the physics behind it.

I'm a bit surprised that's the only thing anyone took any exception to. I thought for sure someone would take me to task on recommending the cheap crappy air filters.
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Old 07-23-2011, 06:10 PM   #68
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Interesting. In November my wife and I bought a house way bigger than what we need because we both hate moving and don't want to have to move when we decide to have kids.

I've had half the house shut down all summer; I was thinking exactly like Dave Lane is thinking. I guess that was a mistake.
Well if it hasn't froze up by now you must have quite a bit of duct leakage or the refrigerant levels will not be quite right when you start using the whole house. Try opening all the vents and see what difference it makes. See if the house cools better. I know it will cool more evenly. But see if the system will stay off a little longer between cycles. See if you have a little better airflow not just out of the registers but see if your return grills where your filters are at catch more dust. At the return you can use a piece of paper to see how strongly it is pulling the paper towards or on to the grills. If you have a couple of thermometers put one on or as close to the returns as possible. Put another at one of the registers. This time of year you should have somewhere around a Delta T of 15. That is the temperature difference between the two. 14 to 17 this time of year. Anything out of that range will show that the system is not opperating properly.
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Old 07-23-2011, 06:17 PM   #69
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Man I thought the same thing forever as well. It's hard to wrap your mind around the physics behind it.

I'm a bit surprised that's the only thing anyone took any exception to. I thought for sure someone would take me to task on recommending the cheap crappy air filters.
Why that is one of the best pieces of info that you gave!
A person should change thier filters every month. But for the sake of your customers to recommend a pleeted high capture filter you HAVE to know how the system was installed. Because if the return duct is not sized properly or if the surface area of the return grill is not large enough a pleeted filter with a small amount of dust can be a huge restriction to the airflow.
Not to mention they are 5 times more expensive.
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Old 07-23-2011, 06:38 PM   #70
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Why that is one of the best pieces of info that you gave!
A person should change thier filters every month. But for the sake of your customers to recommend a pleeted high capture filter you HAVE to know how the system was installed. Because if the return duct is not sized properly or if the surface area of the return grill is not large enough a pleeted filter with a small amount of dust can be a huge restriction to the airflow.
Not to mention they are 5 times more expensive.
I do use the cheapest pleated ones over the winter since I run woodstove to heat my house and the dust from it is terrible. My furnace doesn't even run all that much and those things are filthy after just a few weeks.
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Old 07-23-2011, 06:43 PM   #71
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I do use the cheapest pleated ones over the winter since I run woodstove to heat my house and the dust from it is terrible. My furnace doesn't even run all that much and those things are filthy after just a few weeks.
Well that is good that you check and are aware. And that you are a heat and air guy you can fix your own stuff. If you tell someone or do something for someone else that costs them any money or break down you are the bad guy.
In this business you will either be a hero or a zero.
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Old 07-23-2011, 06:51 PM   #72
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This is not true. Duct is like a water line you are only going to get so much air through it.
Meaning you can't hook a piece of 10" duct right off the plenum box of a 5 ton unit and think it will blow just fine. 10" duct will not move that much air. The speed of the blower motor is ony in rpm's that the motor will turn. The speed will only affect the fps that the air will travel. Not the volume of air.
This is not true I have a 6" duct I move 1000 cfm through. It has an inline fan but you can move huge amounts of air through ducts if you want.
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Old 07-23-2011, 07:11 PM   #73
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Well if it hasn't froze up by now you must have quite a bit of duct leakage or the refrigerant levels will not be quite right when you start using the whole house. Try opening all the vents and see what difference it makes. See if the house cools better. I know it will cool more evenly. But see if the system will stay off a little longer between cycles. See if you have a little better airflow not just out of the registers but see if your return grills where your filters are at catch more dust. At the return you can use a piece of paper to see how strongly it is pulling the paper towards or on to the grills. If you have a couple of thermometers put one on or as close to the returns as possible. Put another at one of the registers. This time of year you should have somewhere around a Delta T of 15. That is the temperature difference between the two. 14 to 17 this time of year. Anything out of that range will show that the system is not opperating properly.
Are registers and vents synonymous?

I have 4 filters (2 for each a/c unit) in the ceiling in the hallway upstairs. Are these the only filters, or are there more in the ducting or near the units? The only ones I've ever changed are those ones in the ceiling.

I opened all of the vents today. It seems so counterintuitive to cool more of the house.
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Old 07-24-2011, 01:57 PM   #74
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Stick with HVAC advice. You can transplant any size of tree if you've the money, space, and water.
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Those "large tree" transplants always fascinate me.

Feel free to share some stories. Is there a size that hits the sweet spot in terms of money and "worth it"-ness?
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Old 07-24-2011, 04:45 PM   #75
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This is not true I have a 6" duct I move 1000 cfm through. It has an inline fan but you can move huge amounts of air through ducts if you want.
Dude you can think what you want but until you have been to school and educated yourself you will not understand. You can believe what you want but there is a huge difference between cfm and fps. You are moving are at 1000 fps but you CANNOT move 1000 cfm of air through a 6" round piece of duct.

fps = feet per second
cfm = cubic foot minute

When you mess up your system and it costs you 10k to replace it and they tell you that your duct is all blown apart and needs to be replaced for an addition 2500 to 3000. Maybe then you will understand.
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