With spring officially here and, at times, the temperatures feeling more like the Dog Days of Summer, air conditioners are being kicked on for the first time this year.
And of course, this is when people realize their system is not operating up to. Air conditioning compressors are a big-ticket item when it comes to replacement, but regular maintenance by a qualified heating and cooling (HVAC) technician can greatly extend the life expectancy of your unit.
A compressors typical life expectancy in the West Virginia region is 17-20 years. This can go down if the compressor is forced to work harder due to its condition. Once a compressor reaches 10 years old it would be prudent to have the HVAC technician perform a yearly systems check and perform all recommended/required repairs. No matter how old a unit is, the harder it has to work, the shorter its going to last. Many things can affect the efficiency of an air conditioning system.
The outside unit of the air conditioners job is to dissipate the heat from the inside air. If proper clearances from buildings, bushes, decks, etc. are not maintained the heat will not be able to transferred to the outside air effectively. The insulation on the refrigerant line is there for a reason and any damaged or missing areas should be repaired promptly. Dirty fins, the area were the air is blown through and actually cooled, can restrict air flow preventing the proper amount of air to be transferred into the living space of the house. If a dryer vent is located near the outdoor unit, lint can restrict airflow through the compressor fins. Though these are not all of the problems that are found, they are very common and can affect the efficiency of your system.
A good way to test your system to see if it is operating properly is to test the temperature drop across the evaporative coil. This is done by turning the system on and allowing it to run for 5 to 10 minutes. Then, insert a thermometer in a supply vent and then a return vent recording the two temperatures. Next, determine the difference between the two locations. The ideal temperature drop is between 14 and 20 degrees. If the temperature drop is higher or lower there is the potential of having a problem.
Another good way to test the system is to feel the refrigerant line that is insulated. It should feel like an ice cube. While outside, look at the compressor itself and ask yourself these questions:
1. Is the compressor out of level?
2. Do the fins appear to be clogged?
3. Is there any physical damaged to the fins?
4. Is the emergency electrical shut off switch missing?
5. Are there any unusual noises?
If you ‘yes’ to any of these questions, or there are any other unusual conditions present, a qualified HVAC technician should be contacted to evaluate the system and make all required repairs.