Cooling Your Home
On a hot summer day an air conditioner can make the difference between heat prostration and almost certain comfort. So, it is wise to learn to identify small problems—before they become the reason the air conditioner stops working.
There are three basic types of equipment used for cooling: 1) a fan, 2) a water cooler, and 3) a refrigeration type cooler (an air conditioner). And, there are two basic types of air conditioners: 1) those which mount in the window or wall – used to cool a single space, and 2) central units that pump cool air to several spaces from a single location via a series of ducts. This week’s offering will deal with central air conditioners.
Central air conditioners are most often installed as two separate components – one at the furnace and one outside the house. The component at the furnace is known as the coil unit and the one outside is known as the compressor or condenser. The two units are connected by copper tubing that contains refrigerant. When the air conditioner is operating the refrigerant is pumped from one unit to the other via the copper tubing. Window and wall type units have both components in the same housing.
You might be interested to know that when properly installed a central air conditioner does more than just provide comfort by cooling. Air conditioners also circulate and clean air (through the use of in-line filters). Dehumidifiers also can be added to an air conditioning system to help reduce humidity that causes damaging condensation.
An air conditioner is very simple machine. The most complex part is understanding how the refrigerant works. A refrigerant is a compound that gives off heat when in a gaseous state and that absorbs heat when it is compressed into a liquid state. When the refrigerant is in the cooling coils it has been compressed and absorbs heat. When the refrigerant leaves the cooling coils it is changed to a gas and gives off heat.
The fan motor in your furnace circulates air past the heat absorbing coils in the coil case and the freshly cooled air continues through the ducts and out wall, ceiling or floor openings to cool the house down. The outside unit contains a fan that blows air through a devise called a condenser. The condenser looks and acts exactly like a car radiator. Instead of motor coolant the condenser if filled with refrigerant that has been pumped to it from the coil case. At this time the refrigerant is in a gaseous state and expels the heat it absorbed inside at the coil case. Interesting cycle isn’t it!
Well, as you might already have guessed there are quite a few moving parts which are used to build an air conditioner. Most important are the pumps and fans. They must all operate at once in order for your two-piece central air conditioning system to work. The electric circuit that controls the furnace fan, normally, is separate from the electric circuit that operates the condenser unit. This is very important to know because it is common for a fuse to blow out at the condenser unit. The furnace fan continues to operate—and two things happen – the air conditioner supplies hot air – and you get the impression that something has gone wrong with the air conditioner – it runs but supplies hot air. Remember, you should be able to hear the fans running at both the inside and outside units. Never, never call a service person to repair an air conditioner until you have checked power everywhere (inside and out). Why, you ask? Who wants to pay $75 or more to have a $2 dollar fuse changed.
A noisy condenser can result from a fan blade hitting something, a loose access panel, or a motor going bad. If the fan is clear and the panels are secure call a technician and have the motor checked. A loud rumble at the furnace end of the configuration also can mean a bad motor, but chances are the fan belt wants you to know that it’s time for replacement.
Why is it so important to maintain these problems before a shout-down occurs?
Well, if your luck is like ours it will happen during the hottest of hot spells – and that could mean the end of your favorite record or candle collection.
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