An air conditioning unit is much more complex than it seems. There are refrigerant gases, brazing joints, compressors, fans, coils, fins, electrical starters, thermostats, overload switches, filters, dryers, lubricating oil, drain pans, insulation, mountings, control systems, remote sensing, and many other components that an air conditioning technician needs to understand.
A well-maintained air conditioning system will use 15% to 40% less energy than a neglected one. Do you need a professional to help you achieve this savings?
There are some simple actions that you can do to improve on or to maintain the efficiency of your air conditioning units, but when it comes to highly technical tasks, it is best to leave them to the experts.
Air conditioner adjustments and repairs should be done by professionals. An air conditioning unit is much more complex than it seems. There are refrigerant gases, brazing joints, compressors, fans, coils, fins, electrical starters, thermostats, overload switches, filters, dryers, lubricating oil, drain pans, insulation, mountings, control systems, remote sensing, and many other components that an air conditioning technician needs to understand.
In addition, there are tools specially made for air conditioning work – flaring tool, tube bender, cutter, gas charging manifold, vacuum pump, fin comb, coil cleaning chemical, ratchet socket wrench, brazing torch, solder, voltmeter, clamp meter, and many others.
When the air conditioning unit needs servicing, a professional service technician should clean the evaporator and condenser coils, check refrigerant pressures, and adjust and lubricate moving parts. If there is not enough refrigerant gas, the system needs to be topped up. This can only be done by checking on the pressures in the system. He will also look for other symptoms that can lead to failure or inefficiencies and then rectify them.
If you have a packaged system, the technician will help to inspect the duct damper and if necessary, repair or replace it. Air conditioning systems that share ductwork with a furnace must have a damper in the duct. It prevents cool air from entering the furnace cabinet in summer, and warm air from escaping to the air conditioner in winter. A missing or malfunctioning damper can waste tremendous amounts of energy and lead to corrosion of the furnace. This has to be rectified.
How often do you need to call in the professionals? It really depends on how much your cooling system operates. As a rule of thumb, you will need to call them in at the following recommended intervals:
Hot regions (operating 8 or more months per year) – once a year.
Warm regions (operating 5 to 8 months per year) – every 2 to 3 years.
Cold regions (operating less than 5 months per year) – every 3 to 5 years
Sometimes, just maintaining the cooling system is not enough. You may need to replace the air conditioning system with newer equipment. Air conditioner replacement makes sense if:
- The air conditioner is over 10 years old.
- The air conditioner efficiency (SEER or EER) is below 7 or 8.
- Repairs or modifications of an existing unit will cost more than half as much as a replacement.
- The unit does not operate properly and can’t be fixed.
- You’ve sealed your home’s walls, floor, ceiling and ducts, installed storm windows, and performed cooling system maintenance, but still can’t keep your home cool.
These are some of the things that a professional can help you:
Replace the air conditioning system
In some situations it makes better sense to replace an older air conditioner with a new, high-efficiency unit. Air conditioner replacement should be considered if the existing unit is worn out, inefficient, or significantly oversized.
Repairing an existing air conditioner may seem to be the least expensive option, but it may cost more in the long run. Paying for repairs on an older, inefficient system may simply prolong the inevitable need for replacement. Installing a new, energy-efficient system may be much more cost-effective. A cooling system technician can help you evaluate whether a new air conditioning system is appropriate.
Sizing your air conditioner
Bigger is not always better when it comes to your air conditioner. For starters, oversized equipment can be less effective at dehumidifying your house. Not only can this lead to moisture problems in a home, but the higher humidity may force you to lower the thermostat to achieve the same comfort level — increasing your energy use. An oversized unit also cycles on and off more frequently, which increases wear and tear, shortens the service life, increases the frequency of repairs, and reduces efficiency. Plus, it costs more to purchase oversized equipment in the first place. If purchasing a new air conditioner, cooling loads should be carefully calculated by your equipment supplier.
If you live in a hot, dry climate, such as the Southwest, an evaporative cooler (swamp cooler) may be a good alternative to a refrigerant-cycle air conditioner. Evaporative coolers use considerably less energy than standard air conditioners. Check with a local air conditioning contractor to find out if such a system makes sense for your home.
An air conditioning system professional’s advice and expertise is certainly needed when you have to deal with such complex designing, installing and commissioning works like these. It will certainly pay you back in the long run. Just leave it to the experts.