Wednesday, 15 June 2016
5 Myths About Air-Conditioning
Air conditioning is a necessity in the south, especially as the temperatures soar into the 90's, and it is expensive! So we're here to debunk some air conditioning myths to help you stay cooler and save money this summer.
Myth 1: Dropping the thermostat setting extra low will cool your house faster.
This is generally not true. There are a few new variable speed air handlers on the market that can adjust their output to match demand. But most homes have a central air unit with just a single fan speed so it can only move warm air at a set speed. Your air conditioner will deliver cool air at the same rate no matter how low you go on the thermostat setting. If you turn the thermostat to 50 degrees when you want it to get to 72 degrees, your room won't get cooler any faster. By undercutting the desired temperature, you run the risk of wasting energy and money when you forget to set the thermostat back up.
Myth 2: It's more efficient to leave your air conditioning running when you're not at home than it is to turn it off (raise the thermostat) and have to re-cool your house when you get home.
While you're away, there's no need to keep replacing cool air with more cool air many times over. This just forces your A/C's compressor - the most energy-consuming element in your system - to operate constantly for the 8-10 hours you're gone. Turn your air conditioning down when you leave the house for extended periods and set a timer for about a half hour before you return home (here's where a programmable thermostat comes in handy!). During the cooling season, the longer your house stays at an increased temperature, the more energy and money you will save. One caveat: do not adjust the temperature more than 7-10 degrees. Otherwise, humidity can become a problem, especially within the walls and insulation.
Myth 3: Leaving a ceiling fan on will cool a room even if no one is in it.
Fans cannot lower a room's air temperature. They create a cooling effect by causing evaporation on the skin. Fans cool people, not the air. Leaving your ceiling fan on when you're not in the room is a waste of energy and money. If you're in the room, however, you'll want to run the fan with the blades set to counter-clockwise, in order to create a downward breeze which will help you feel cooler. If a fan runs in a room when no one is there, no one is feeling its benefits. So it's just wasting energy.
Myth 4: Closing vents in unused rooms will boost efficiency.
This only works if your home is already divided into separate HVAC zones, and you can control one zone independently of another. But most homes have the HVAC designed to distribute air throughout the entire house in a balanced fashion. If you close a register, the system keeps cooling and pumping without delivering the cool air to a usable space. You're basically paying to keep the inside of your ductwork cold! Worse yet, this may cause the compressor/condenser to cycle too frequently, and puts strain on the system, leading to accelerated wear and an early failure. Why risk this damage when it's not actually saving any energy? If you only want to keep a single room cooler than the rest, consider a ductless mini-split air conditioner, or consider a zoned cooling system. A zoned system uses multiple thermostats that control dampers within the ductwork, allowing you to control room temperatures to suit your needs. Checkout our post about uneven heating and cooling for other possible culprits and solutions.
Myth 5: Your air-conditioning unit will perform the same no matter where you install it.
Installation is a key factor when it comes to efficiency. Try to install the outdoor unit in the shade or at least out of direct sunlight, on your home's north or east side, if possible. If you plant trees and shrubs around your unit for shade or simply for aesthetic reasons, make sure you don't block the airflow around the unit. When installing the thermostat inside your home, keep it away from heat sources, and away from lights and other appliances that give off heat, because it will make your unit run longer than it needs to.
Cool Tip: Any time you can turn a machine or light off, it will save energy. Lights are especially bad about heating up the air unless they are LEDs (check out our post "LED Lighting Lowers HVAC Costs"). You spend money to run the light and then have to spend more money on the air conditioning to counteract the heat it produces! So, when not in use, turn off the lights, appliances, and electronics.
Posted on 06/15/2016 3:16 PM by Eddie Hutton
Wednesday, 1 June 2016
Causes of Refrigerant Leaks
Perhaps you've read or listened to one of our earlier posts entitled "Fix the Refrigerant Leak Now!" so you know how expensive refrigerant leaks can be! With the phasing out of R-22, a "shot of Freon" (as it is often called), could run you $400 or more. And there's no telling whether that will last a couple of months or a couple of weeks! Plus, it is detrimental to the environment, causing a depletion of ozone in our upper atmosphere. If you recharge the system several times, the oil in the compressor will deplete enough to damage the compressor, and then you may require a major and expensive repair! A properly-working air conditioner does not consume or use up refrigerant, so if it is running low on refrigerant, there is a leak somewhere in the system. But where? In this post, we'll talk about the most likely culprits.
The Schrader valve, also called the core valve, or service valve, is the port you hook up to when servicing the system. That's why finding a leak here can be so elusive: while it is in use, it doesn't leak. It's only when it is not engaged that the leak can be detected. Often, this can be as simple as putting a soapy solution around it and watch for bubbles to form, or using an electronic leak detector. The Schrader valve can become leaky when debris gets stuck in it, or when the rubber o-ring deteriorates. It used to be that to swap out the valve with a new one required removing all the existing refrigerant in the system (pumping it down) first. But now there are some specialized tools that allow you to swap out this valve while the system is still under pressure. After swapping it out, the system can be topped off with refrigerant. Consider yourself lucky if this is the problem because it is easily repaired.
Condenser Coil, Evaporator Coil, or Accumulator
The evaporator coil picks up heat from indoor air, and the condenser coil releases heat into outdoor air, so these coils are essential for heat exchange. Either or both can develop leaks over time. In some cases, you may be able to hear the hissing sound emanating from the coil and can determine where the leak is. What's more likely is that the coil has developed microscopic "pin holes" in several places. That's because these coils are typically made out of copper, which is particularly susceptible to pollutants such as formaldehyde which is often found in our homes in flooring, furniture, hairspray, and cleaners. Formaldehyde turns into formic acid which causes corrosion on the inside of the tubing. Ironically, newer systems that meet the government's mandate for increased efficiency may be more susceptible to these kinds of leaks. That's because A/C manufacturers found they can raise the efficiency of their equipment by using thinner copper in their evaporator coils, thus allowing faster heat transfer. Some A/C manufacturers have switched to aluminum coils to lessen the probability of this type of corrosion. Heat pumps typically have accumulators made of steel, which will rust over time. Any of these types of causes are very expensive to address because they require replacement of the coil or accumulator which is a very expensive part, plus it requires a complete depressurizing of the system (withdrawing all refrigerant or "pumping down").
Joints, Seals, Lines and Tubing
Vibration of running the system, as well as environmental pollutants, can cause joints, rubber seals and copper tubing to weaken, split, separate, or rust. A lawn mower or nail may have punctured a line. Steel parts will rust if not galvanized or made rust-proof. Age is also a factor, because the system is under high pressure causing the walls of the tubing to thin and weaken over time. These leaks can be hard to find and may require disassembly of the unit. To locate the source of the leak may involve injecting a tracer (a fluorescent dye) into the system and then re-checking the system about 10 days later using a UV lamp to see where the dye has leaked out. Once the source is found, the joint, connection, or hole in the tube can be fixed by re-soldering, cutting it out, replacing it or by-passing it. The diagnosis and repair of these conditions can be time-consuming and thus expensive.
Depending on the age of the air conditioner or heat pump, and the type of refrigerant it uses, you may be faced with a dilemma: You may need to consider replacing it rather than repairing it. Weighing the costs can be tricky, so you'll want to read our post entitled "Repair vs Replacement." Keep in mind it is possible to repair one refrigerant leak and have another one develop in a different location shortly thereafter. Whatever you decide, doing nothing is not an option. Sure, the cost to repair or replace your system may be higher than simply adding another "shot of Freon," but not repairing a leak causes recurring expenses that will only escalate, risks major damage to your system that could be even more costly, and injures the environment.
Finding the source of a refrigerant leak requires the use of specialized tools and supplies, specialized training, and is something few homeowners can do themselves. Recharging the system with refrigerant whether the "old" R-22 or R-410A equivalent, or the new refrigerant R-422 is definitely not something a homeowner can do since it requires a government license to order and use these refrigerants. Depend on the experts at Interstate AC Service to diagnose the source of your leak, fix it, recharge your system, and get your air conditioner operating at peak efficiency.
Posted on 06/01/2016 6:05 AM by Tony Anderson