Air conditioner repair

How to Avoid Common Summer HVAC Problems

As the outdoor temperatures steadily rise, so do the number of service calls for air conditioner repairs. One reason for the increase in service calls is due to the fact that homeowners are less likely to put off repairs when the heat is unbearable. However, the sultry summer heat could be indirectly responsible for most common summer HVAC problems.

The hot and humid summer weather can cause your HVAC unit to work extra hard to keep you comfortable. Also, because the temperatures outside can be extreme, you may be more aware of unit cooling inefficiency.

Commonly Reported Summer HVAC Problems

Here are a few of the most common summer HVAC problems, how you can avoid them, and the steps you need to take to fix them.

Poor Air Flow

When your system is running, you should feel cool air coming from your AC registers. If you place your hand over the register and notice little to no air flow, there is obviously something wrong. This is an indication that there is poor air flow to your HVAC unit.

There are several things that can cause poor air flow.

Summer Vegetation

A common summer culprit is summer vegetation. WIth warm temperatures and sunny days, the plants around your outdoor unit grow faster. If left unchecked, these plants could grow up around the unit and create a leafy barrier, trapping the heat inside. This causes a decrease in efficiency and potential overheating.

Air conditioners need intake and exhaust air to operate efficiently. Be sure to keep shrubs, grass, and other outdoor plants trimmed well away from your outdoor HVAC unit to ensure proper air flow. At least a two-foot clearance is recommended around the equipment and at least five feet above it.

Dirty HVAC Filters

Dirty HVAC filters can also cause air flow issues. Because the air conditioner is running more frequently during hot temperatures, it is circulating more air. This can cause the filters to become dirty faster. It is a good idea to change your HVAC filters more frequently during the months your system is working hardest to keep you cool.

Dirty Coils

Again, because your unit is running more frequently, and circulating more air, the coils on your air conditioner can become dirty and clogged. This is particularly true if you haven’t been changing your filters as often as necessary.

Having the system’s coils checked and cleaned by a local HVAC professional before summer begins can help keep air moving freely over them. However, it is better late than never. If you are having poor air flow issues, it may be as simple as a routine maintenance visit.

Low Refrigerant

Contrary to popular belief, your HVAC system does not consume refrigerant as it cools your home. A properly working unit shouldn’t need a regular refill of refrigerant.

Over time, however, your HVAC system may develop tiny leaks that can allow refrigerant to slowly seep out, leading to a low refrigerant charge. An undercharged air conditioner will struggle to cool your home effectively. The result is longer run times, a decrease in energy efficiency, higher utility bills, and possible overheating.

During a routine maintenance visit, your HVAC technician will check refrigerant levels and inspect your coils and refrigerant lines for any leaks. If your unit has a refrigerant leak, the technician will seal the leaks before adding more refrigerant.

If you suspect your system may be suffering from low refrigerant charge, contact your local HVAC professional for help.

Problems with Electrical Lines

The exposed electrical components on your unit may be more susceptible to damage during the summer. Take extra care when trimming grass or other vegetation around your unit. A string trimmer or electric shears can damage the fins on the outside or accidentally clip the electrical wiring.

Since pets often spend more time outdoors during the summer, they can also pose a hazard to your unit’s electrical lines. To keep pets from chewing on electrical wires or urinating on electrical components, you may need to secure the area around your outdoor component to keep it safe from your furry friends.

Compressor Failure

All the common HVAC problems listed above are relatively easy to repair. However, if left unfixed, they could lead to more serious and expensive problems.

Insufficient air flow, poor refrigerant charge, and electrical issues will eventually cause the unit’s  the compressor to overwork, overheat, and ultimately break down. Replacing an HVAC compressor is not only expensive, it is very inconvenient, leaving you and your family to suffer the uncomfortable summer heat.

That is why it is important to call a licensed HVAC technician at the first sign your air conditioner isn’t working properly. Waiting too long could lead to more serious repairs.

It is also important to schedule regular annual maintenance to ensure your system is running smoothly and easily. Like the old saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

 

If you have any questions or need to schedule maintenance or repairs, be sure to contact your local HVAC professionals.

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coolant

What to do About an AC Coolant Leak

Most homeowners will never have to change the coolant in their air conditioning unit. Since most systems incorporate a closed loop design, if there are no major accidents or malfunctions, the coolant should last the life of the unit. However, sometimes accidents happen. If your unit develops a leak or experiences some other system failure, you may need to replace the coolant.

Signs Your AC May Have a Coolant Leak

The most obvious sign that you have a coolant leak is that your AC isn’t working properly. If your HVAC unit suddenly stops cooling your home effectively, or if you can feel warm air blowing through your vents, it is a sign that your system may be leaking coolant. Other symptoms of a coolant leak are excessive condensation or ice build-up on the outside of the unit.

Before You Call a Technician

When your air conditioner is no longer cooling your home, you’re going to want to have it fixed as soon as possible, especially if the outside temperatures are rising. You may be able to get your AC unit up and running like new with some routine maintenance. So, before you pick up your phone to call a technician, there are a few easy things you can try.

First, check to see if you need to change the filter. When an AC system gets dirty, it starts to lose its ability to cool efficiently. Also, make sure clear any leaves or other yard debris that may be clogging the unit’s fans.

Get an AC Tune-Up

If your AC still isn’t cooling well after performing these easy maintenance tasks, it is time to call an AC professional to check things out. Your AC troubles might be easily fixed by having your unit cleaned.

You can clean the condenser unit. yourself, but this isn’t a task to be taken lightly. The condenser fins, which are thin metallic blades that surround the AC unit, get dirty quickly. As the central fan sucks air through the condenser fins, dirt, dust, dead grass, and other debris can block airflow reducing the unit’s cooling ability. You can use a vacuum with a soft brush to clean the fins, but be careful. They’re fragile and can easily be bent or crushed.

If you feel uncomfortable cleaning this part of your AC unit, you can always call a qualified technician to do it for you. Cleaning a unit yourself, can be trickier than you think, and could potentially result in doing more damage than good. Sometimes it is best to call in the qualified professionals to take care of things early than to have them come in a fix a major repair that you caused yourself.

Call a Technician to Plug the Leak and Recharge the Coolant

If your unit still isn’t working properly after completing these routine maintenance tasks, it’s time to call a technician. Your HVAC professional will inspect your system and verify whether you have a coolant leak. A qualified HVAC technician can diagnose your problem, fix a leak, recharge your system with coolant, and have your system ready to keep you cool in no time.

There are several types of coolant used in air conditioners. The most common coolant is Freon, also known as R-22.  Because Freon is a chlorofluorocarbon (CFC), which has a negative effect on the Earth’s protective ozone layer, it is being phased out in several countries including the United States. Because of these environmental concerns as well as dwindling supplies, Freon prices have skyrocketed.

Newer HVAC units are more likely to use Puron, also known as R410A. While Puron is more environmentally friendly than Freon, the two types of coolants are not interchangeable. To make the switch from Freon to Puron, you’ll need to replace your entire air conditioning unit.

You Need Professional Help

Fixing a leak and recharging coolant is not a weekend do-it-yourself project. Most homeowners are not even allowed to purchase coolant for their air conditioning units. To ensure that coolant is handled safely, technicians must be certified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Retailers won’t even sell coolant to unlicensed customers.

However, it isn’t only legislation and regulations that should convince you to hire a professional to recharge your coolant. Coolant in your AC is highly pressurized and is dangerous for untrained individuals to tamper with. This is one task that is best left to the professionals.

If you have questions or concerns about your HVAC unit’s coolant levels suspect you may have a coolant leak, be sure to contact a local HVAC professional.

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