Air Conditioning Troubleshooting

Malfunctioning HVAC is avery common household problem. These problems are mostly seen in peak seasons of chilly winter and scorching summer. The obvious way out is to givingservice call to repair and maintenance services. But before you do so, you should try to troubleshoot the unit yourself. This will save you money and also unnecessary delay. It is not easy to get a repair service address your problem immediately. In peak seasons they get a torrent of repair calls.

Here we will take a look at 4 air conditioning (AC) problems and how to trouble shoot them.

The unit is iced-up in summer

You may be flabbergasted to see you AC unit iced-up in summer. You can see ice inside or outside the air conditioner. It could be inside the indoor unit, outdoor unit or in the area that connects these two. This reason for ice could be mainly two- the machine is running at a low temperature or it is operating in a chillyweather.

You can rule out the later, as here we will investigate for a summer ice-up. However, if you need the AC to run to run in winter then buy and fit a "Low ambient kit".

When the temperature is too low, evaporator coil can freeze up. To prevent your evaporator from freezing never turn the thermostat below 70 degrees. It can also result in sweating of the ductwork. A moist duct is ideal for mold growthand breeding of other microbial beings. The other reasons of icy unit in summer are restricted airflow and low refrigerant level. The best way to deal with icy unit in summer is to stop the machine and let it thaw.

You will need professional help if ice-up is due to:

• Slow or not running fan
• Worn belt and dirty blower wheel
• Low refrigerant level
• Choked capillary tube
• Clogged orifice
• Problem in the expansion valve
• The compressor contractor is not functioning
• Not-working thermostat
• Dirty or damaged indoor coil

However you can troubleshoot if it is due to:

• Clogged air filter: All you have to do is changed the filter.
• Supply and/or Return vents blocked: Clean the vents with a vacuum cleaner
• Running an air conditioner with windows open: Close the windows
• Setting thermostat too low: Do not set it high immediately. Let the hawthorn clear off the ice. Thereafter reset it at high temperature.
• If there is a central humidifier in your unit, always shut it off in summer. If it has a damper, close it as well.

High electric bills

There could be many reasons for steep power bills. It could be any of the following:

• Mistakes on the part of the utility company
• Bad insulation in the house
• Windows are left open when powering on the HVAC
• Inefficient HVAC and other electrical appliances
• Leakages in ducts

The HVAC will generate high bills in chilly weather as well as hot summer months because it remains in operation thewhole day. But if the bills are exorbitantly high then it requires a thorough investigation.

Before you call for professional help in such circumstances, you can try troubleshooting if it is not that serious. You can begin by:

• Checking for a tripped breaker in the outdoor unit
• Check if the filter has not been changed for quite some time and is very dirty therefore
• See if there is ice in the outdoor unit

If these are not the cases then it could be due to refrigerant leak or damaged compressor. These would need professional help.

Below are the antecedents for skyrocketing power bills where you need professional help.

• The outdoor unit is not functioning; it is icy; it is using the back-up heat
• Freon level has gone down
• The flow of refrigerant is not smooth
• Faulty metering device
• Device needs servicing and cleaning
• Faulty compressor
• Running in A/C mode
• Undersized equipment and duct work
• Too small unit

However, in the following cases you can be the trouble-shooter:

• The outdoor unit is iced up due to inclement weather: It will function once the ice is cleared and it is thawed.
• The outdoor unit is not running due to a tripped breaker
• Dirty filters: This restricts airflow. The machine works harder to cool the rooms, which leads to higher energy usage. Change them to normalize the bills.
• Return duct leakage, disconnected joints in duct work and bad insulation: Repair these.
• Thermostat wired incorrectly. This can lead the system to kick on the strip heat which is only for winter. As result hot air comes out of the unit but you don’t realize it as it gets mixed with cold weather. The running strip heat doubles up the utility bill.

Water Leakage in the Indoor Unit

In no circumstance your indoor unit should leak. Water should not drip from it and overflow on the floor. These can short-circuit the washer, dryer, and the heater-like appliances that are generally kept in these areas. This is one of the causes of HVAC fire. We generally keep an array of combustible substances in our utility closet. If you see your unit dripping, take a look to know the probable reason at once.

Take the following steps immediately for a dripping unit:

• Unplug it from the socket.
• Collect the dripping water in a bucket
• Check the hose for a blockage. The hose could be dug into a hole. Take it out to have a look. The hose can also get pinched somewhere. Put it in order if that be the case. There is not enough slope along the hose for the water to move forward, fix it.

In summer season when the machine is running the whole day, the evaporator produces a lot of condensation (water). The water should run down evaporator coil to the condensate pan and then out to a drain that will vent it outside the house. The drains will either take the water to the ground or take it to a condensate pump. The pump pushes the water either outside the house or into a plumbing drain. An unmaintained unit will have very dirty coils. The condensate instead of running down the coil will hit the dirt and will be unable to flow forward. It will start dripping on the floor.

In some situations, the water can slowly move with dirt and reach the drain trap. The dirt can clog the trap which can also result in dripping problem. Clean the drain trap with a long flexible cleaning brush and flushing water down the cleanout cap. However, if you unit is in the attic or in a finished basement then dripping can cause serious damages.

The indoor unit can ice-up in summer due to an array of reasons. The ice will melt and water will drip from the unit. When the device is in cooling mode, the evaporator coil and the suction line sweat. The suction line is the refrigerant line made of copper. It is generally covered in black insulation. The insulation is given to prevent the dripping. If the insulation is in bad form or has open seams them water can drip. It is a minor issue. You can but it up with arm aflex tape.

Dripping problems are also seen in winter. The furnaces also produce lots of condensate. They also have to drain the water. There are many parts in a furnace that can get leaky. If you have a central humidifier in your system then it can be a major source of leakage. The best way to deal with leakages is to get the unit serviced at least once or twice a year.

Here are a few situations of leakage that needs professional repair:

• The condensate pump is not working
• Thepump tube is jammed
• The evaporatorcoil has frozen due to malfunction, causing melting ice to drip
• Faulty evaporator coil
• The condensate pan has cracked; the gasket has worn out
• There are broken fittings and pipes
• Humidifier over-filling or leaking

But some of the situations be handled at home. They are:

• Armaflex insulation is missing: Get the tape and cover the uninsulated area with it.
• Condensate pump unplugged: Plug it on.
• Drain line is not pitched downward: Align it properly to allow the water flow out.
• The condensate pan, trap, or drain is clogged: Clear the dirt.

Unbalanced air duct

This is a common problem when you have a central AC. You will find that some of the rooms are cooler than the others. This problem is due to improper duct balancing. You have to ensure equal airflow to all rooms for even cooling. In case you have certain rooms not used often, then you can balance the duct so that these rooms get less air than the others. Duct balancing is an important and critical job that is conducted by the HVAC contractor during installation. Once the ducts are made they use variety of testing methods and instruments to balance the air pressure in all rooms. But in case you encounter these problems you should first of all see that if the vents are properly open; if carpets or draperies are not guarding them.

How air ducts can be balanced:

Most homes do it by using dampers. They are fitted in sub-ducts that issue out from the main trunk. These are ether present in the attic or in the basement. The look like metal handles which open and close,fully or partially, to control the flow of air through the duct. They can reduce the airflow in rooms which are getting too much of it and increase flow to those rooms that need it. Sometime you can adjust dampers manually if there are accessible to balance the air flow. In some homes the dampers inaccessible or they are not present at all then this balancing act has to be carried out at the supply registers.

In bigger houses some of the rooms will not be cooled as others. This could be because they have longest duct run or there are too many twists and turns on the way for the air to reach them. Balancing the dampers can solve the problem. Some rooms can get overheated due to too much exposure to sunlight. You should put heavy curtains to guard sunlight. But if you have poorly insulated rooms or undersized duct work, then balancing the dampers is not the solution. In such cases you have to get the duct professionally balanced.

Here are some situations of imbalanced ducts that need professional attendance:

• Poor duct insulation
• Not working dampers
• Slow running fans
• Unclean blower wheel and coil
• Improperly sized ductwork
• Dirty ducts

If the following are reasons for uneven cooling then you can troubleshoot-

• Dirty filter: Change the filter to generate better airflow
• Keep thevents open by removing carpets and draperies that are covering them
• Check for proper damper positions
• Make sure windows are fully closed and well curtained

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