This Pittsburgh Weather
It’s Pittsburgh in May! And as always here in Pittsburgh, it just doesn’t seem to be “typical”. For those of you out of town, about a week or so ago, it began to feel like summer! I had a good friend tell me that his wife switched from using the furnace to using the AC in just one day! He told me he was glad that his AC was working properly as he hadn’t done any AC service since last fall.
That got me to thinking about my own AC unit. I recall it wasn’t quite up to par last fall when I quit using it. Guess I’ll have to get busy and do my own AC service this coming Sunday since it appears that it just might be getting warm weather is going to stay. A service man’s own home issues are the last to be repaired when needed, and that’s because our customers come first!
AC Unit Service; It Might Be Time
So, when is the best time of the year to have your AC serviced? Even if it’s just to make sure everything is working properly? Right now might be just the time to do it! It’s not yet too hot (well most days anyway). And it’s not really too cold anymore as we try to put winter behind us for another year. If you’re going to have a pro check out your AC system, it always pays to call for service before the first heat wave hits. That’s because this is when Proudfoot and the other pros become swamped with repair calls!
The Anatomy of an AC Unit
Just to give you all something of an education, the following is a brief anatomy of a typical home AC system.
The outside unit is called the condenser. The condenser contains a compressor, cooling pieces called “fins”, tubes, and a fan. The fan draws air in through the fins and thus cools a special coolant. The compressor then pumps this coolant into the house to the evaporator through copper tubing. The coolant chills the fins and tubes of the evaporator. Warm air is drawn from the house by the blower. This air passes through the evaporator and is cooled down and then blown to the various rooms in the house. The evaporator dehumidifies the air as it cools it, and the resulting condensation drains off to a floor drain through tubing or piping. The blower unit and ducting system will vary due to whether or not you have a forced-air furnace, a heat pump, or some other kind of unit.
Your furnace or heat pump may be located in the basement, garage, furnace room or even in the attic, so check out your home AC/heating systems when you have a few spare moments to see how your home is cooled and heated.
How to Do Your Own AC Service
There are a number of simple things you can do yourself before you would want to call a pro:
Make sure to change your air filter regularly
The filter should be changed every three months (or as recommended by the manufacturer) and definitely before the start of a new cooling or heating season. Check around the outdoor condenser unit for any overgrowth of hedges, weeds, etc. Make sure there is no blockage in or near the equipment and clean the area around the unit. Leaves, vines or other debris can block the interior components and affect your AC’s performance.
Please check to see that your AC unit protective cover is removed!
Many of our customers cover up their outdoor units with a protective covering for the winter. You’d be surprised how many people forget that the cover is still in place the first time they go to use their air conditioning in late spring. Not removing the cover could not only affect the performance, but could cause unnecessary damage to your outdoor unit as well.
Visually check the refrigerant lines going into your home from the outdoor unit
The lines should be insulated. Proper insulation will improve the efficiency of the system. Any necessary repairs to the insulation or refrigerant lines should be done by a professional unless you’re very “handy”.
At this point, if you decide to turn on your AC to test it out for the season, there are a few steps to follow.
Lower the temperature on your thermostat to the desired level and turn the system “on” at the thermostat.
Go outside and listen to make sure that the fan in the condenser is running. Also listen to see that it doesn’t sound irregular. The air coming out of the top of the unit should feel warm, as warm air is being removed from your home by the AC system.
Let the system run for 10 – 15 minutes or more. Make sure you can feel the indoor temperature cooling off in all parts of the home.
Hopefully, all works well. If it does, you may want to postpone a professional check out of your system. However, there are things that a pro might find that a homeowner would not be thinking about. It always pays to call a pro, like Proudfoot.
Proper AC Service: Outside the Home
A pro will clean the outdoor condenser unit, and also the indoor evaporator unit (if easily accessible).
He/she will shut off electrical power to the outdoor unit. This is usually done at the disconnect switch outside near the unit itself. Then they will begin by disassembling the enclosure by unscrewing the side panels and removing them to expose the condenser fins. Those are fine metallic blades that surround the internal condenser unit itself. These fins get dirty because a central fan draws in air through them, also pulling in dust, and possibly dead leaves, dead grass, etc.
Then, he/she will vacuum the fins and clean them with a soft brush. Note that they’re fragile and can be easily bent or crushed. Occasionally you’ll find fins that have been bent. A pro will straighten any bent fins during a check out service call. To gain access to the interior of the condenser, a pro will “partially” remove the fan (since its wiring is interconnected within the unit). Then he/she will hose off the fins, and check the fan motor for lubrication ports, and lubricate if necessary.
Proper AC Service: Inside the Home
Now, inside your home, the evaporator usually sits in an inaccessible location inside metal ductwork downstream from the blower. If one can get access to it, the evaporator fins should be gently vacuumed (from the blower side) or cleaned with a soft brush as was done with the condenser outside. However, the best way to keep the evaporator clean is to keep the airstream from the blower clean. This means annually vacuuming out the blower compartment and changing the filter whenever it’s dirty.
The evaporator fins dehumidify the air as they cool it, so you’ll find a tube that drains off the condensation. The water collects in a pan and drains out the side. Most tubes are flexible plastic and are easy to pull off and clean. But if they’re rigid plastic, you’ll probably have to unscrew or cut them off with a saw to check them. From there, the pro will re-glue the rigid tubes back together using a coupling or will replace them with flexible plastic tubes.
We here at Proudfoot always believe that preventative maintenance is much better than waiting until something breaks. And along with that belief, we offer a once a year maintenance service check our agreement. We schedule our customers for an AC service in the spring (heating check in the fall). We want to make sure there are no problems when the switch is flipped to use that air conditioning. The last thing you want on that first hot, sticky, humid summer day is to flip that switch to “on” and have nothing happen!
So, click here or please give us a call to be on the safe side at 1-412-461-2198. Definitely call if you don’t like sweating in your home in the late spring! We’re always glad to help out and/or make recommendations.