Our A/C repair technicians are asked a lot of questions, from “When should I replace my air filters?” to “On average, how long should I expect my A/C unit to last?” We’ve heard it all. So to better educate the customers we serve, our technicians sat down and compiled this comprehensive list of some of the most frequently asked A/C repair questions.
WHAT SIZE AC UNIT DO I NEED FOR MY HOME?
Many customers automatically buy a larger air conditioner than they actually need because they believe it will keep their home more comfortable. This is not a good way to select a product, however, and can end up costing the homeowner more in energy bills. To accurately determine the size of the AC unit required, the homeowner needs to determine the square footage of the area to be cooled. For square and rectangle rooms, multiply the length of the room by the width. For a triangular room, multiply the area of the room by the width and divide by two. According to Energy Star, an area that is 250 to 300 square feet needs an AC unit that is 7,000 BTUs an hour. Add 1,000 BTUs per 50 additional square feet.
WHAT IS THE BEST THERMOSTAT TO USE FOR MY COOLING SYSTEM?
There are several thermostats that will work will with a cooling system. The final decision will largely depend on the equipment the homeowner has and the options they are looking for.
- iComfort Wi-Fi – This option is extremely user friendly and programmable. It has excellent energy efficiency and overall performance.
- Lennox ComfortSense® 7000 Series thermostat – This can be used with a duel fuel system and has a touchscreen. It works to promote efficiency and performance of the entire heating and cooling system.
- ComfortSense® 5000 Series touchscreen thermostat – This is also programmable and is compatible with nearly any heating system. It can be mounted directly to a wall or removed for remote programming.
- ComfortSense® 3000 Series thermostat – This is best for basic operations with a value price and the ability to customize different temperature settings.
WHY IS MY AIR CONDITIONING SYSTEM FREEZING UP?
Some people are surprised to see their air conditioner frozen on a hot day. There are two main reasons why an air conditioning system might freeze up.
- Not enough airflow – This can occur if the ducts are extremely dirty or clogged preventing air from moving through the system.
- Refrigerant leaking – If refrigerant is leaking it can also cause the system to freeze up. If this is the case, not only will the refrigerant have to be cleaned up, but the cause of the leak should be determined. Whenever a person sees frost or ice on an air conditioning machine, it is best to address the problem right away to avoid damage to the machine. Regular maintenance can help prevent these types of problems.
HOW OFTEN SHOULD I CHANGE MY AC FILTERS?
Although this question depends largely on your use of your unit, the answer is simple: clean or replace your AC filters when they are dirty. Air filters keep debris and allergens from coming into the home. If the filters are dirty your indoor air quality goes down. Some filters may be washed, dried and reused. Others must be replaced. In either case, take the time once a month to check the filters. If they are dirty and clogged with debris, clean or replace them. Changing your air filters regularly improves the output of your A/C unit, reducing the work your machine has to do to keep you cool and comfortable.
ARE REUSABLE FILTERS AVAILABLE FOR MY HOME AC?
Reusable filters may or may not be available for your home AC. The availability of the reusable filters will depend on what size filter is needed for the unit. There are a number of ways to find out what size filter an AC unit uses.
The first way to discover what size filter an AC unit uses is to look it up in the instruction manual that came with the unit. The filter size is typically listed inside the manual under system specs.
Another way to find out what size filter is needed is to remove the current filter from the AC unit. Removing the current filter will allow you to determine what size filter is needed and look for a manufacturer that makes reusable filters in that size.
DO I HAVE TO REPLACE MY AC FILTERS OR CAN I CLEAN THEM?
AC filters capture dirt, allergens and bacteria before these dangerous particles circulate throughout your home. Ideally, you should replace the AC filters two or three times a month during summer or high-allergen seasons. Instead of incurring this expense, however, you can buy washable filters. They’re easy to clean in a solution of water and vinegar. Simply remove the filters from the unit, soak them for an hour or up to several hours if they’re extremely dirty. Allow the filters to dry naturally before inserting them back into the AC. Whether you buy regular or washable filters, be sure to replace or clean them regularly for maximum indoor air health. Proper care of your AC filters is a very important component of a good air conditioner maintenance program.
WHAT IS THE OVERRIDE SETTING ON MY HOME AC?
If you have a programmable thermostat to control your home AC unit, you can prevent it from changing settings throughout the day by using the override feature. This allows you to temporarily change the temperature of your home AC or heating system, making it warmer or cooler depending on your needs. Most programmable thermostats will allow you to determine how long you wish to keep the override. You may choose to reset the temperature just until the next setting takes effect. Or you could change the setting for a longer term, including several days while you are on vacation. Whatever you do, be sensible in your use of the override setting. Your HVAC equipment works best on a regular schedule with reasonable temperatures. So do not set it too high or too low for long.
THERE ARE FROGS IN MY OUTSIDE AC UNIT FAN. CAN I STILL TURN IT ON?
An outside AC unit fan serves an integral purpose to the function of the entire air conditioning system. The fan dissipates heat away from the air conditioning condenser, the part of the unit responsible for cooling the air which is then piped into your home. Before turning it on, check the fan of your air conditioning unit for intruders like frogs, lizards, or other small animals. Running the AC unit with a resident frog will not always damage the outside AC unit fan, but it could burn out the fan’s motor and will likely prove fatal for the frog. Try luring the animal out with a desirable food source.
CAN I HANDLE ROUTINE AC MAINTENANCE MYSELF?
There is no reason you can’t perform routine AC maintenance and repair for yourself. In fact, there are many simple things you can do yourself to help keep your HVAC systems running for years to come. Changing your air filters frequently is a quick and easy way to keep your HVAC systems from having to work too hard. Also, dusting your inner coil and keeping your outdoor condenser unit free of debris can help keep your system in top working order.
Of course, there will always come a time when you can benefit from getting help and advice from an experienced HVAC professional. In some situations, getting an expert’s help, in addition to performing routine AC maintenance on your own, can save you a lot of money in the long run.
DOES WEATHERPROOFING REALLY HELP MY AC BILL?
Yes. Not only will it reduce the amount of energy you use, but weatherproofing your home will also help extend the life of your AC unit. Your air conditioner has to run continually to keep your house cool if the AC air is escaping and the hot summer air is being let in. Having your home weatherproofed will remove and repair the leaks that are causing your cool air to seep out. This reduces the amount of energy you use.
Running continually is hard on any machine. So, along with keeping your filters clean and yearly maintenance, weatherproofing your home will help to extend the life of your AC unit. This means fewer replacement costs along with lower energy bills!
I SEE A SOOT-LIKE SUBSTANCE COMING FROM MY VENTS WHEN THE AC UNIT IS ON. WHAT IS IT?
If you have an air conditioner blowing out black dust, you may have one of the following problems with your AC unit:
- Dirty Unit – If your AC unit hasn’t been used in quite some time, it’s possible for dust to have actually collected in the unit and may need to be cleaned out.
- Deterioration – Your ducts may be aging and the aging liners are slowly deteriorating. Small pieces of the liner may be blowing out along with the air flowing through the ducts.
- Burning Module – If your dust smells ashy, it could be a small part in the air conditioner is overheating and actually producing soot. If the dust smells hot or smoky, turn off the AC unit immediately and call a professional for an inspection.
- Mold – With humid conditions, mold could grow. It is possible mold is growing around your fan component and then being blown throughout your home. Call a professional for help to keep this residue from clogging your unit and dirtying your home.
WHAT DOES ROUTINE MAINTENANCE COMPRISE?
There are two types of routine air conditioning maintenance: jobs you can do on your own and tasks that require professionals to perform. Checking and cleaning or replacing your air filters is simple and you should do it monthly. Once or twice a year, you should clean the exterior of your air conditioning condenser and your indoor evaporator coils. When you schedule seasonal service, your HVAC technician will do a lot more. Among other tasks, the professional will test your thermostat for proper function, assess the levels of refrigerant, check the condensate drain, lubricate parts if necessary, inspect all electrical connections and look for other obvious problems. Routine maintenance of your HVAC equipment ensures your home is safe and comfortable for years to come. You can also contact us should you need any assistance with your HVAC maintenance.
WHAT IS THE AC COIL?
The AC coil – or “evaporator coil” as it is also called – is a series of metal tubes and heat exchanging fins that bear a resemblance to an automobile radiator. This is for a good reason, as both systems exchange heat out of the system for cold. In an AC coil, heat is removed from room air, cooling it. It also removes moisture from the air, as cooler air cannot hold as much moisture as warmer air. The reason why it is so important to regularly clean and maintain the evaporator coil is because it is so essential to this part of the heat exchange system.
IS IT COMMON TO NEED MY AC COIL REPLACED?
With good upkeep, an AC coil should last more than 10 years, and up to 20 if effort is put into maintaining it. It is not, however, uncommon for an AC coil to need replacing. Pollen, dirt and dust can build up inside an AC unit affecting the function of a coil over time. A coil may also be damaged during cleaning or servicing of the AC unit, or suffer damage from ice build-up in extreme weather conditions.
Even without additional factors, normal use and weather exposure will eventually lead to corrosion of the AC coil, which may result in leaks. So, it’s not uncommon for a coil to need replacing, but it should not need frequent replacement.
HOW CAN I CONFIRM THE MODEL AND SERIAL NUMBERS FOR MY COOLING SYSTEM?
If a customer has a problem with their cooling system or needs it serviced for any reason, knowing the model and serial numbers will let the technician know exactly what system they are dealing with before they arrive. When a customer wants to find and confirm their model and serial numbers they need to look on the nameplate or sticker. Both are located near the service panel. The sticker should have a white background with black lettering. It will provide a variety of information about the unit, such technical information about electrical rating, compressor, fan, and design in addition to the model and serial numbers. Those with any additional questions should call a technician.
MY HOME AC IS MAKING A WEIRD NOISE OUTSIDE. WHAT SHOULD I DO?
If your AC unit is making strange sounds, turn it off and call a professional for help. The sooner you call, the less damage caused and the quicker the fix! You might notice the following sounds:
- Banging – If something gets off balance in your unit or a fan blade is damaged, the unit may start banging and shaking.
- Squealing – A high-pitched noise coming from the AC unit may be caused by an old belt which needs to be replaced.
- Hissing – Refrigerant leaks may cause a hissing noise and could come from the main unit or one of the refrigerant lines.
- Gurgling – A low, wet sound might indicate your refrigerant is running low and more refrigerant should be added.
MY AC UNIT STAYS ON NONSTOP DURING HOT SUMMER DAYS. IS THAT NORMAL?
Yes and no, it depends why the AC unit is constantly running. If the temperature outside is extremely high, an AC unit may need to run nonstop to keep the home at a specific temperature. This is considered normal.
When temperatures outside are not extremely high, an AC unit may run nonstop for a number of reasons that are not considered normal. These reasons include dirty AC evaporators, clogged filters, and improperly set thermostats.
An AC unit will also run nonstop when it is not the proper size for a home. AC units which are too big or too small for a home are forced to work twice as hard to keep a home cool during hot summer days.
I SEE FIRE ANTS IN MY OUTSIDE AC UNIT. WHAT SHOULD I DO?
When ants are already in an outside AC unit, the first step is to remove them without damage to the HVAC components. The least harmful way to do this is to turn off the power and brush the ants out of the unit with a soft broom or brush, before wiping down the components you can reach to remove the ants’ trail, which will attract more ants.
Once the ants are gone, make the environment around the outside AC unit less attractive by keeping leaves, twigs and other organic debris away, and by sprinkling ant poison around the base of the unit.
Never spray insecticides into an outside AC unit. These chemicals are harmful to the HVAC’s function and will corrode components.
HOW LONG CAN I EXPECT A NEW AC UNIT TO LAST?
In general, a new AC unit can be expected to last approximately 10 to 15 years. This depends on the make and model purchased, how often you use your AC and also, whether or not maintenance is performed on a regular basis. To keep your new AC unit functioning properly for many years to come, keep the area around the AC clear and free of debris. Clean out any leaves and twigs that become stuck in the unit. Do this once per month. Finally, have the unit inspected and maintained by a professional twice yearly; once before summer begins and again when summer ends.
WHAT IS VARIABLE SPEED TECHNOLOGY AND HOW DOES IT APPLY TO AIR CONDITIONERS?
Variable speed technology refers to the fan motor which helps to move the air throughout the home. It works with the air handler, which can be a furnace or blower coil. Since the motor is variable speed, it will move at a range of speeds to control precisely how the heated or cooled air runs through the home. This higher degree of precision helps to improve energy efficiency and cooling efficiency because of its capacity to work only as much as needed, rather than continually.
Variable speed technology also helps homeowners set up zones where they customize the temperature for particular areas of the house. The fan can also help improve air quality by moving air through the filters and when the systems are combined with Comfort Sense thermostats, the humidity can be controlled as well.
HOW DOES AN AIR CONDITIONER WORK?
An air conditioner does a fabulous job of keeping you cool during the hottest weather, but how does it work? Refrigerant is a chemical compound which easily converts from a liquid to a gas state and back again. As it expands from a liquid into a gas, it cools down. A great example of this is a propane tank on a camp stove burning on high. If you feel the tank, you’ll notice that it’s cold. This is caused by the liquid propane turning into gas as it leaves the tank. As it loops through your air conditioner, it is compressed into liquid, decompressed into gas, providing cold in the heat exchanger and then condensing before beginning the cycle once again.
WHEN SHOULD I LOOK FOR AIR DUCT CLEANING SERVICES?
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), there are some signs that your air ducts need attention. The first sign that you should have the conduits cleaned is any indication that leads you to suspect mold inside. Mold can have long-lasting and detrimental effects on your health, so respond immediately.
Any time you see signs of vermin, such as animals or insects going into or coming out of the vents, hire a professional to resolve the problem. Finally, if you see dust coming from the vents along with the moving air, you should have your ducts cleaned. The benefits of cleaning air ducts include reducing the amount of dust in your home, decreasing the concentration of dangerous microorganisms such as mold, and improved air circulation.