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Old 07-23-2011, 09:09 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 07-31-2011, 11:10 AM   #106
Baconeater Baconeater is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stanley Nickels View Post
No, it's intermittent to be sure. When it does happen (probably about 25% of the time... has yet to do it today though) it's SUPER loud... imagine like what a fanbelt on a car sounds like when it screeches. Can hear it throughout the house. Not sure what it's all about.. light doesn't appear to show anything in there impeding the fan (which could also explain the difficulty starting).

What do you think a replacement start capacitor would run us? Is it something a novice could do? I'm always looking to learn more about home improvement, as a young homeowner.
Heh, I've never actually paid for a cap myself, the company buys them. But I'd be surprised if that one is more than $20. They're not hard to replace, do it wire-by-wire and discharge both of them with an old screwdriver before you start. And kill the power to your furnace via the fused disconnect switch that should be next to it.

You'll have to take the old one to a AC supply place so they can get you the right replacement, I don't believe the home improvement stores carry them, but I've never looked for them there so I may be wrong.

And I had a condenser fan doing the same intermittent screech not too long ago, I ended up replacing it.
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Old 07-31-2011, 01:56 PM   #107
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So, it's making that noise again. I made a video showing the issue. What I turned earlier is in fact a motor, not a fan. I was able to capture what that noise was, even though it meant turning off the A/C.



I hate my voice on video by the way. Oh well, this is more important.
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Old 07-31-2011, 02:09 PM   #108
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Heh, I hate listening to my recorded voice as well.

That finned wheel is actually your fan, it's a "squirrel cage" type fan as opposed to a bladed one. What you see on that confined side is the actual motor, and what you're using to start it is the motor shaft. It almost sounds like that fan is rubbing on something?

And WD-40 isn't a very good lubricant. I'd recommend using just about anything else.
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Old 07-31-2011, 02:14 PM   #109
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After watching it again, I'm leaning towards the bearing in the motor being shot. If you want to try lubing it pulling the blower isn't hard, it's usually just a couple 1/4" sheet metal screws and then the whole unit will slide out. That may be an exercise in futility though.

Maybe Chief Roundup will chime in, he has quite a bit more experience than me.
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Old 07-31-2011, 03:20 PM   #110
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bugeater View Post
After watching it again, I'm leaning towards the bearing in the motor being shot. If you want to try lubing it pulling the blower isn't hard, it's usually just a couple 1/4" sheet metal screws and then the whole unit will slide out. That may be an exercise in futility though.

Maybe Chief Roundup will chime in, he has quite a bit more experience than me.
I had this exact problem several years ago. It is the bearings in the motor. New motor is in order.
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Old 07-31-2011, 03:38 PM   #111
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poop. well, rep anyway :P
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Old 07-31-2011, 05:07 PM   #112
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So.****ing.frustrating. It was working well for a while, now... nothing. Pushing the safety button down turns the red light on the circuit board thing on for a split-second, then it goes off. No humming, no attempt to start by that motor.. nothing. I went outside to see what type of air conditioner we have; looks like an old York. There's a ton of ice around the hoses and a few components in the outside "box" unit (sorry, I'm retarded and don't know the name for this). Two things: 1) am I looking at a new motor here, or some smaller component? I doubt the ice has anything to do with this, sounds like the motor is our culprit..

2) What's the price range I could be looking at to replace this? Any chance I could replace the motor myself, with a how-to video or something? Can I find and buy a motor and simply pay someone labor to install it?

Okay, that's more than two questions. You guys are the best.
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Old 07-31-2011, 05:35 PM   #113
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Yikes. I'm in the middle of cooking right now, I'll try to address as many of those issues as I can in a little while here.
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Old 07-31-2011, 05:36 PM   #114
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No worries! Your help is super appreciated already.
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Old 07-31-2011, 06:08 PM   #115
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Ok, the ice may or may not be related to the blower. It's possible it froze up if you've allowed it to run without the blower, or it could be a result of it being undercharged. It's hard to say at this point. Have you ever noticed ice out there before?

Anyone with any mechanical skills can change out a blower motor and cap (you always replace the cap when you replace the motor). But with the time you'd spend pulling it and chasing one down, you'd probably be better off calling a pro to do it, and they can check the charge for you as well, that's something that you cannot do.

And again, I have really no idea on pricing. Depending on who you call I'd guess anywhere between $200-300 to have blower motor and cap replaced and the system checked out.
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Old 07-31-2011, 06:49 PM   #116
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Holy crap, that's, quite literally, a small percentage of what we were expecting. I'll mentally still prepare for the worst, but that's some silver lining. I've got a guy coming out tomorrow, who was recommended by my fiance's dad (a retired contractor). Will let you guys know how it turns out. Thanks to all for their help, though!
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Old 07-31-2011, 06:53 PM   #117
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The most expensive repairs to an AC system are the coils or the compressor. When one of those go bad is when you start weighing whether a system should be replaced or not.
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Old 07-31-2011, 06:58 PM   #118
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Thanks Bug! Hey, can you translate this to Spanish, so then I could pass it on to the crew that comes to service my HVAC every 6 months. oh wait....
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Old 08-01-2011, 12:54 PM   #119
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Last night SUUUUCKED. I'd be surprised if my cumulative sleep was more than a couple hours. Sweaty sleep sucks, too. Anyway, we got the guy to come over, he confirmed it was the blower motor (apparently it was much harder to turn than it should be). Had it replaced in about an hour and a half. Whole thing, plus a refill of refrigerant (I think that's what he refilled.. I R dumb.) was $300. That sound like a good deal?
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Old 08-01-2011, 05:10 PM   #120
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stanley Nickels View Post
Last night SUUUUCKED. I'd be surprised if my cumulative sleep was more than a couple hours. Sweaty sleep sucks, too. Anyway, we got the guy to come over, he confirmed it was the blower motor (apparently it was much harder to turn than it should be). Had it replaced in about an hour and a half. Whole thing, plus a refill of refrigerant (I think that's what he refilled.. I R dumb.) was $300. That sound like a good deal?
Eh, he probably checked the charge and added some, which kinda worries me because you can't get an accurate charge with a lot of hot, humid air inside the house. I bet he ended up overcharging it.

I should have mentioned something about that yesterday, although it likely wouldn't have mattered because most guys aren't going to want to make a second trip out after the house is cooled to check the charge. Kind of a shitty part of the business.

Other than that it doesn't sound like too bad of a deal seeing that it was in the price range that I completely guessed at.

Oh, and obviously the drag on the blower wheel from the bad bearing is why the cap couldn't get it going. I'll have to remember that as something to look out for.
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