At Quality Air Of America, we take pride in educating our customers about their AC system from how it works and how to best care for it. A well-functioning HVAC system is crucial for the comfort of your home, and understanding it better means you and your family will get the most out of it!
It’s important to remember that these are air *conditioning* systems. They are not air-cooling systems. That’s because your AC does more than just cool — it both cools AND dehumidifies your home.
In fact, your AC is the most power dehumidifier you can have. And this is a good thing, especially in Florida where the air is often so sticky. A comfortable home needs to be both cool and appropriately dehumidified. Because your AC is removing excess humidity, this also leads to one of the most common problems with your system (clogged drain lines), but we are getting ahead of ourselves!
Your HVAC system works to cool your home by removing heat from where it’s not wanted (inside) and putting it somewhere you don’t mind (outside). The refrigerant, sometimes called Freon or gas, is the part of the system that absorbs and releases the heat. The refrigerant itself is never released, just heat. The rest of the machine is responsible for making sure the refrigerant moves around the system appropriately.
In the process of absorbing heat from the inside of your home, humidity is also removed from the air. As the warmer air comes into contact with the colder refrigerant, condensation occurs. This condensation is the very humidity you want to remove from the inside of your home. A properly installed AC system with clean drain lines will allow this condensation to flow outside. But when your system isn’t installed properly (and especially if it isn’t level) or if your drain line is clogged, this condensation doesn’t properly flow outside — and this is why folks will often say their AC is “leaking”
To avoid “leaks” and to ensure your system is running correctly, it’s always recommended to have preventative maintenance visits (twice per year). Our team would be happy to discuss these programs with you.
Check your thermostat! This could be a simple fix like checking your thermostat batteries and making sure your thermostat is in cooling mode. If your thermostat is on, it might just be that you need to reset your breaker. Before spending money on a service call, it’s a good idea to try these simple fixes if your system isn’t running.
Check your safety switch! A bit more complicated, but it’s also relatively easy to test. Your safety switch is a protective device placed in your drain pan, which sits below your air-handler to catch excess condensation. If the condensation builds up too much, the safety switch cuts power to the system. If it didn’t, the drain pan will overflow and there is a risk of water damage.
If your drain pan is filled with water, pull the “top” off of the safety switch. If the system turns back on, then you have found the issue. If you are able to flush out the drain line yourself, this will likely solve the issue, at least for a period of time. You can also give us a call to do a high-pressure flush of the system. If the problem persists, you might need to get a new drain line installed, or add a condensate pump to your system to ensure condensation is properly evacuated outside.
There are a number of potential issues that could prevent your system from blowing cold air. Oftentimes in these cases, you will see ice forming somewhere on your system because heat isn’t being transferred appropriately.
Check your filter! The only issue that’s easy to diagnose and fix is a dirty filter. You should be changing your filter often anyways, but if your system is not blowing cold air, always check your filter as a first step. Hopefully, a fresh filter fixes the issue – but if it doesn’t, give us a call to diagnose and repair the problem for you.
You might be low on freon, have a faulty motor, an electrical short, a grounded compressor, a broken contactor or dead capacitor. Don’t let these words intimidate you! We’ve provided an HVAC dictionary to help take the mystery out of these wonderful machines.
All of these issues require a professional to properly diagnose, and it would be a pleasure for us to help you with this work. And remember, if you do see ice forming somewhere on the system, be sure to turn the system off for a few hours prior to your technician arriving. ice can delay us in diagnosing and repairing the system.
Short-cycle refers to a system that is turning on and off too frequently. The shorter the cycle, the harder the system has to work during that brief period of time and can cause excessive stress on the system. It can also result in higher energy bills.
There are many potential causes of short-cycling, and if you notice this is occurring, please let us know if we can help.
Your unit might be incorrectly sized (too large). Since the system isn’t running for a long period of time, you will sometimes notice uneven cooling in different rooms. You might also have airflow issues (dirty coil or filter), or a faulty safety switch, contractor or another accessory component.
Refrigerant: Sometimes called freon or gas. This is the material that absorbs and releases heat from the system. If your “pressures” are low, it means you have an inadequate amount of refrigerant, and your system will need to be “charged” or refilled. If the leak is small, the system might work fine for months or even years to come. If the leak is large, a larger repair will likely be necessary because the gas will quickly escape.
Condenser: This is the part of the ac that is responsible for pushing excess heat outside. It is made up of three basic components: a compressor, a coil, and a fan. It is located outside.
Compressor: Often called the “heart” of the AC. The compressor is the primary mechanical component of the system, and it is responsible for circulating the refrigerant.
Condenser Fan: The fan located outside on the condenser. It blows air over the condensing coil to help it remove excess heat.
Condensing Coil: The coil located outside. as refrigerant circulates through his coil, excess heat is removed.
Air Handler: This is the part of the AC that is responsible for absorbing excess heat from inside. It has two main components, a coil and a fan.
Blower Fan: This fan located in the air handler. It blows conditioned air back into your home.
Evaporator Coil: As refrigerant circulates through this coil, it absorbs heat.
Expansion Valve or Metering Device: Perhaps the hardest part of an ac system to understand is because it requires a bit of science. The simplest way to think about a metering device is that it regulates the flow of refrigerant between the air handler and the condenser. In regulating that flow, it also controls pressure, which in turn controls temperature — allowing the machine to work its magic.
Contactor: this is equivalent to the light switch for the system. when your thermostat calls for cooling, it sends a signal to the contactor to turn the machine on.
Capacitor: Located on the condenser, this component basically jump-starts the compressor and fan. Capacitors are the most commonly replaced components of HVAC systems. They are not covered by most warranties.
Safety Switch: A protective device installed below your air handler to automatically turn off the system if excess condensation builds up in your drain pan. This helps to prevent “leaks” and so it protects your home.
Ton: A measure of a system’s cooling capacity. The approximate rule of thumb is that for every 500 square feet of space, you will need one ton of cooling. So if your home is 1000 sq feet, then a two-ton is most likely appropriate. That said, the height of your ceilings, design of the ductwork, and other factors can impact correct sizing. It’s also best to have a professional size your system, and we’d be honored if you chose us!
SEER: Short for seasonal energy efficiency ratio, and it’s a measure of how much power your system uses. All units sold today are “high efficiency” and have a SEER rating of 14 or higher. A higher SEER is not necessarily “better” but a higher seer rating will help you to save money on the energy bills.
Split-System: The most common type of ac in Florida. There is a condenser located outside, and an air-handler located inside (a closet, the garage, or an attic).
Package Unit: There are a few types of package units, but for all of them, both the condenser and the air-handler are “packaged” into a single unit that is located outside. These are most common in apartments, mobile homes, and commercial facilities.
Heat Pumps: More common in colder climates, and heat pumps can both heat and cool space from a single device. There are many types of heat pumps – air source, water source, and geothermal. Most commonly, heat pumps in Florida are water source heat pumps, and are found in larger condo buildings. Many single heat pumps will be connected to a single water tower. This can make these systems more complicated. Your individual system might be running appropriately, but an issue with the larger system could create an issue for you.
Mini-Splits: These systems cool without any ductwork, so for spaces where adding ducts is not possible, mini-splits are the ideal solution. The cooling capacity of mini-splits is measured in BTUs (british thermal units), and come in many sizes and configurations.
Fan Coil Unit: Like mini-splits, fan coil units can operate without ductwork and blow conditioned air directly into the space, though larger fan coils can also attach to a duct system. Residential fan coil units are usually installed in apartments, and are located in the ceiling somewhere central to space. Fan coil units also have a condenser located outside.