Spring has sprung! And while spring brings beautiful weather and a great deal of outdoor enjoyment, it also marks the ideal time to maintenance equipment that helps keeps homes and businesses operating with cool, comfortable indoor environments. Our crazy Dallas, Fort Worth weather may be up and down right now; but when our summertime heat and humidity kick in, they kick in with a vengeance. The best time to prepare for those elevated temperatures and sticky humidity is now.
Having an A/C tune-up performed in the spring means you are ensuring your system is ready to work before you need it the most – the summer. That way when the heat kicks in, your A/C still kicks on and you still stay cool. More often than not, air conditioning equipment is not given the consideration it deserves. Let’s take a visual walk through of A#1 Air’s precision spring A/C tune-up and go over some of the top benefits of having this type of preventative maintenance performed.
Feel free to skip ahead to any of these key sections:
An air conditioning tune-up can be worked starting indoors or outdoors. It really depends on the time of day and how hot the attic is. While we check for over 30 potential problem areas, just a few of the checks and repairs we perform are:
- Balance of the refrigerant
- Complete electrical checks
- Drain line cleaning
- Evaporator pan cleaning
- Coil inspection
- Full cleaning of the blower
- Duct integrity check
- Supply and return temperature checks
- Condenser coil cleaning
- Indoor and outdoor motor checks
- Air filter checks
Of course we always shut off all power to the system before we begin any work. This protects both the system and our technician(s). Let’s start our walk through indoors.
Inside System Checks
This picture is a quick indicator that not all air conditioning systems are alike; therefore they should not be treated as such. If we are the company also installing the equipment it’s important to note that we use a top support system to ensure the furnace itself is anchored, as it should be. That way we know our technicians will be able to remove and install service panels easily, without worrying about the system bowing and buckling.
When we inspect and clean the evaporator coil condensate pans and drain lines (where water flows from your evaporator coil drain pan), we check for clogs. This flow could be routed to various places. Sometimes a build up of dirt and grime create a mess and interferes with proper draining. Most drain lines can be blown out, providing they’ve been serviced annually. If not, the proper cleaning may be more extensive. Also, every unit should have a drain safety switch.
Being that the evaporator coil is an essential component of your air conditioning system, it’s important to keep it clean. A dirty evaporator coil can increase utilities cost, decrease comfort level, damage the compressor, and ultimately shorten the lifespan of your system. Keeping your filters changed and clean also helps the coil to work more cleanly and efficiently. However, if the coil has a high corrosion level, it will be in your best interest to replace it with a new one.
We’ll also look at the electrical circuits and blower motor. Cleaning the motor and blower assemble improves reliability and efficiency while equaling less money out your pocket. With the panels off we can visually inspect wiring to seek out worn, cracked, or loose wire connections. Our technicians will verify the motor capacitor capacitance and compare this to the manufacturer’s specification. If our diagnostics show the capacitance to be below the manufacture’s specifications, we will recommend replacing it. Otherwise, it could cause the motor to overheat, consume more electricity, or become unreliable.
All capacitors have a life expectancy, as any mechanical component does. However, some factors that contribute to early failure are loose connections, voltage exceeding the capacitor rating, and overheating. Our technician will verify that the proper voltage and amperage are within specifications.
Another inside, and often neglected, part of your system is the ductwork. Some things that A#1 Air considers when determining the best way to improve energy efficiency, comfort, and promoting healthy indoor air quality is:
- The age of the system
- Prior work on the duct system
- Proper sealing
- Past cleanings
- Return air
- Current state of ducts
Some ductwork problems are obvious while others need a closer look to reveal hidden problems. Our technicians will inspect the integrity of your ductwork system and make any recommendations needed. For more information, please see Benefits of Duct Sealing by Energy Star. A#1 Air can take care of any needs for both ductwork and air duct cleaning.
There have been many studies or articles on indoor air quality that can be found on the Internet; however good indoor air quality begins with a properly installed and maintained cooling system and air filtration system. In short, there is dirt and dust all around us. While I’m not going to get into detail on indoor air quality for the sake of this post, I am going to stress how important it is to install filters properly and change or clean them regularly.
A dirty air filter can have a negative impact on your A/C system, such as causing the system to cycle less, the evaporator coil to freeze up, or air to not flow properly from the vents. It can also cause your system to cool less or stop cooling entirely. A collapsed filter can cause quite a mess and much damage. An A#1 Air technician can explain the different filters to you and the benefits (or lack thereof) of each. Proper sizing is always key. For now, some tips on selecting a good air filter are:
Air Filter Recommendations to Use as Guidelines
· Pleated filter – good performance and helps with indoor air quality. Is considered an upgrade when compared to fiberglass filters
· Hepa filter – captures most air borne particles such as dust, dust mites, mold, bacteria, and other allergens.
· Electrostatic filter – uses static electricity that charges the filter so it acts like a magnet to remove dirt, dust, dust mites, and bacteria. Needs frequent cleaning.
Installing the right HVAC filter in your system and replacing or cleaning it properly helps to keep your A/C system running at peak performance and in an energy efficient manner. While the general rule of thumb for when to change or clean is once a month, it also depends on the size of the home or building, how many occupants, visitors, etc. go in and out.
A slightly dirty filter actually cleans more efficiently than a brand new filter. That’s because the trapped layer of dirt and dust helps block smaller particles that try to get through. Just don’t let the dirt build up beyond anything more than slight. “Slightly dirty” is the optimal phrase here. No dirt hanging out of the filters, please!
This image shows the drain safety switch. Every air conditioning system should have a drain safety switch. This ensures the unit will shut off, preventing water damage to ceilings, floors, walls, or furniture. The drain safety switch is a small investment for safe guarding your valuable property and to help ensure a comfortable, healthy indoor environment.
In this picture one of our technicians is checking the movement of the float to ensure there are no obstructions that will prevent the switch from operating properly. His next step will be to activate the switch to verify that the system will shut off. These are very simple procedures, but important to prevent an overflow of water. As a word of caution, always install the safety switch lower than the drain pan. I’ve seen too many of these installed incorrectly, causing issues where there doesn’t need to be.
Now let’s move outside.
Outside System Checks
As you can see, our technicians enjoy their careers! They are committed to providing great, friendly service, no matter how many tune-ups or other services they perform – and no matter how hot and humid our North Texas climate is.
During our tune-up, we clean your outside system. The cleaning process means to remove any grass, weeds, leaves, and other debris that may reduce the airflow. While we don’t recommend any flowers, foliage, fences, etc. around your outdoor unit (see Springtime Do’s and Do Not’s for Your A/C System), if you just must have foliage near by, we recommend allowing at least 24 inches of space around the unit so it can breathe properly, not pull dirt and debris into itself, and not get overheated. This will also allow a big guy like me room to clean and maintain your system!
Our technicians will unscrew the grille on top of the outside unit so we can clean any debris inside the condenser. It is amazing how many leaves, pieces of fallen tree branches, etc. end up inside this cavity. While we have the fan motor fully visible we can look for signs of the motor over-heating, any bearing problems, and fray wires.
We’ll also check the electrical portion of the condenser. Identifying electrical problems can be difficult without the right tools. Two must have tools that our technicians most definitely have – knowledge and skills! We also utilize true RMS volt amp ohm meters, as they are very accurate and dependable. When we combine our knowledge and skills with this meter, there is no guessing games or changing out parts unnecessarily to try to solve problems.
It is important to check voltages and amperages on the compressor as well as motor and electrical circuitry to confirm that they’re working properly. Recording these readings will allow us to track any differences each year, giving your technician additional information that is important to identifying and addressing problems early. Contactors and relays have many uses in an A/C unit and must be checked for any voltage drops through its points. If this is detected, changing a contactor is an inexpensive protection against having to replace a compressor. We use extreme caution in this case, as there are multiple voltage sources.
A common condition on an A/C unit is capacitor failure. Capacitors come in many shapes, sizes, and voltage ratings, but they all have the same function. In short, capacitors shift the electrical phase to provide the efficiency and start power for the compressor and fan motor. A failing capacitor creates higher amp draw (energy consumption), causing compressors and motors to overheat and eventually fail. If your fan motor is running slow then stops cooling down and starts again, shut your system off and call a certified technician before any further damage is done to the system. A quick note on why capacitors go bad is that it usually has to do with an improper power supply. While there are many reasons for failure, this seems to be the most common.
We ensure connections are good by first visually checking all wires while looking for connection burn marks, oxidized ends, connection ends for corrosion, and tightness of connections. After all the parts are checked, the system is cleaned, the drain is cleaned, the ducts are inspected, filters are inspected and cleaned, the blower and coil are cleaned, and a few other items are checked, we are ready to check the refrigerant charge.
Our technicians will ensure your system is equipped with the proper refrigerant charge to battle the heat. Heat can cause havoc on the outdoor condenser unit, which is home to many parts. This includes the compressor, fan motor, contactor/s, capacitor/s, digital boards, and other components. Proper refrigerant charge not only keeps the system running efficiently, but it also cools the motor windings, which will prevent the compressor from overheating.
How important is a refrigerant charge? Superheat and subcool not only allows our technicians to charge the system accurately, but both provide information if the system is not working properly. Correcting any charge will maximize system performance, which in turn will save you money as your system uses less energy.
Speaking of refrigerant, A#1 Air gives all customers up to 2 lbs. of Free – for free – with every tune-up! Check out our current special Tickets & Tune-up’s that not only includes 2 lbs. of free Freon, but 2 free Texas Rangers tickets, a ball cap autographed by Derek Holland, and a chance to win a free Texas Rangers jersey.
Finally, with a simple garden hose, we’ll spray and wash the dirt and grim from the condenser. Cleaning these A/C coils is important and will save you money in the long run. A clean condenser will help the unit perform efficiently, while lowering your refrigerant head pressure. Higher head pressures will cause higher indoor temperature, hotter coils, hotter compressors, and hotter condenser coil temperatures.
How Often Should I Have my Air Conditioner Tuned-up?
It is recommended that an air conditioning system have a precision tune-up annually. This will ensure that you are getting the best reliability and efficiency out of your A/C system before you need it most during the sweltering months. It also helps to get the full life of your system and helps to save you money in energy bills.
A good preventive maintenance program would detect early problems before they start and before full system failure occurs. We have various A/C preventative maintenance programs for homeowners. For business owners, we customize a program that is specific to your needs and circumstances.
For an A/C tune-up or any other services or questions, simply give us a shout!