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VIDEO: Basics of Evaporator Coil Leak Detection

In this video we review the basic steps to find a leak in an evaporator coil. We discuss isolation, electronic sniffers, bubbles, and dye. For more info check out our site https://www.prestigeairtx.com.

The evaporator coil we use in this video was removed from a customer’s system due to a leak. Fortunately we were able to find the leak quickly, unfortunately it was at the base of the elbow in the rust, which made it unfixable.

What we show you in this video is how we find leaks by isolating the coil, pressurizing with some refrigerant and nitrogen. The purpose of the refrigerant is to make sure our sniffer can detect the leak, and the nitrogen creates the pressure to duplicate the leak as if the system was running.

Once we have identified the general are of the leak with our electronic leak detector (sniffer) we then spray bubbles in the area to find the exact location of the leak.

Once we identify the exact location of the leak in the evaporator coil we then determine if the leak can be fixed, and if so, what it will require. Will we need to pull the coil from the system to repair it, or will we be able to repair it in place?

Watch the video to see all this in action. Or you can watch the video directly on youtube here.

The Anatomy of Your Evaporator Coil

In this video we go over the basic anatomy of an evaporator coil. We review the liquid line, the metering device, distributor lines, piping, coil fins, drain pan, and suction line. This video is designed to be helpful to the homeowner so you know what we mean when we discuss leaks in your evaporator coil, maintenance, changing the metering device, etc.

Wanna see where the evaporator coil lives in your heating and air conditioner then watch our video on residential split systems here.

You can also watch this video directly on youtube if you want by clicking here.

Why Did My Capacitor Fail?

A capacitor is a very common electrical component within your home’s air conditioning and heating system. Capacitors enable certain types of motors to run. These types of capacitors are called run capacitors. Before we discuss why they fail, let’s talk about why they are necessary. 

Most homes are on what’s called “single phase” electricity. Very simply put, this means all the electricity in your home is current that runs the same direction. The motors used in your HVAC system have two windings and they need one of those windings to be “out of phase” in order to turn. This is where your capacitor comes in. The electricity going to one of the windings in the motor goes through the capacitor first, is taken out of phase, and then proceeds to the motor, enabling the motor to turn. Without a capacitor this type of motor won’t turn, it will just sit and hum (which isn’t good for the motor).

A capacitor is made up of an electrical conductor and a dielectric (non-conductive) material rolled up together like a fruit roll-up still in the plastic. The amount of conductor inside the shell determines the amount of “capacitance” that the capacitor has. This is measured in microfarads. See the image below.

There are many ways that a capacitor can fail, but the two main failures are from heat, and from the deterioration of the dielectric. 

When a capacitor gets overheated it begins to swell which can pull the contact points (where the wiring connects to the capacitor) out of the conductive material inside. This means the wiring is no longer connected to the material inside, and the capacitor has failed, it is no longer providing capacitance to the motor. 

Capacitors can overheat for several reasons. A failing motor can increase the amperage needed to run, which increases the amperage being pulled through the capacitor, overheating the capacitor, and can cause it to fail. This also works in reverse, a failing capacitor can cause a motor to require more amperage to run, overheating the motor, and can cause the motor to fail. Capacitors can also overheat from outdoor ambient temperatures. It is very common to have capacitors fail during a short heat wave. The first time it hits 90 degrees we see a lot of cap failures. The ones that make it through this heat may then fail when it hits 100 degrees, and so on. This type of failure is usually immediate. The moment it overheats and pulls the contacts out the motor ceases to operate. 

The next most common reason we see capacitors fail is due to the deterioration of the dielectric material inside. As this material degrades the electricity inside shorts out, reducing the capacitance, or microfarads. This type of failure is slow. As the dielectric slowly degrades the capacitance slowly goes down, bit by bit. This type of failure can also cause the motor to fail. As the capacitance goes down the motor no longer operates as designed and begins to operate with unnecessary strain which can cause the windings to break down, the motor to overheat, etc. This is why it is so important to have your system maintained on a regular basis. We can test and determine when a capacitor is slowly failing and by catching it early we can preserve the integrity of the motors it is connected to, saving you hundreds of dollars in the long run. 

Capacitors, and why they fail, is a very complex subject. This is a very simplified explanation to help you understand why this happens and why we, as professional HVAC technicians, do what we do when we work on your system. 

For more information on having your system maintained click here and we can schedule an appt with you. 

How Does My Condenser Work?

On a residential split air conditioning system the condenser is the outdoor unit. It’s main job is to take the refrigerant as it comes outside from your home, as a gas, and condense it back into a liquid before sending it back inside. The liquid refrigerant then enters your evaporator coil to cool the air. The refrigerant inside your evaporator is a liquid, it absorbs the heat from the air in your home and boils off into a gas and is sent back outside to the condenser to be condensed back into a liquid again. This is your basic refrigeration cycle. 

On your basic system the condenser uses five main components to condense the refrigerant back into a liquid. These are the compressor, the condenser fan and condenser fan motor, the condenser coil, the contactor, and the run capacitor. 

  1. The compressor is the main component in the operation of the condenser. The compressor circulates the refrigerant through the entire system. It operates just like your heart, circulating blood throughout your body. It pulls the refrigerant outside from the evaporator coil and then forces it to move through the condenser coil to turn it back into a liquid. 
  1. The condenser coil (copper or aluminum tubing) is the next major component. The condenser coil is the tubing that runs all the way around your condensing unit. If you connected all the condenser coil piping end-to-end you would have anywhere from 150-300 feet of tubing. This is where the refrigerant as a gas has the heat removed so that it can be condensed back into a liquid. As air is pulled over the condenser coil the heat is pulled out of the refrigerant which cools it down back to a point where it turns back into a liquid. But what causes air to cross over the coils and remove heat…
  1. The condenser fan and condenser fan motor work to draw air across the condenser coil and remove the heat from the refrigerant cooling it down. If you ever hold your hand over the top of your condenser while it is running you’ll notice the air blowing out the top is much warmer than the ambient outside air. This is because the fan is drawing outside air across the coils, pulling the heat from the refrigerant, and then blowing the heated air out the top. This is one of the easiest ways to determine if your condenser is working, if the air blowing out the top is much warmer than the outside air. 
  1. The contactor is inside the control panel for the condenser. This is essentially the “on” switch for the condenser. When your thermostat tells your system that it needs air conditioning to turn on it sends 24-volts outside to energize the contactor which then switches on the high voltage to the compressor and the condenser fan motor. When the compressor and condenser fan motor turn on, the air conditioner begins to run full steam ahead. 
  1. The run capacitor is a small but very important component within the condenser. The run capacitor is what makes the motor in the compressor and the condenser fan motor operate. Without getting too technical your condenser motors run on two windings of single phase electricity, in order for the motors to run they need to have one of those windings “out of phase”. This is what the capacitor does. The high voltage power going to one of the windings passes through the capacitor first and has it’s phase shifted so it is out of phase with the other winding. This causes the magnetic motor to turn. Most condensers use a single capacitor for both the fan and the compressor, this is referred to as a dual run capacitor, this is because it is used for both motors. Sometimes you’ll have two capacitors, one for each motor, the compressor and the condenser fan motor, separately. 

To sum it up, when your thermostat calls for AC it energizes the contactor in your condenser. The contactor then sends high voltage to the compressor and the condenser fan motor. The high voltage for one of the windings in each motor passes through your run capacitor which enables both motors to begin to turn. Once the compressor is running it begins to move the refrigerant as a gas through the condenser coils where the condenser fan then draws outside air over the coils removing the heat and condensing the refrigerant back into a liquid. 

The compressor then sends the liquid back inside to the evaporator coil where it absorbs the heat from inside your home and starts the process all over again. 
That is, in a nutshell, what your condenser does, and how it works. For more information on the residential split system you have in your home click here, or watch the video on youtube here.

How to Choose the Right Heating and Air Conditioning System for Your Home

When choosing a new comfort system for your family most people focus on price. But price isn’t the only thing you need to consider. You’ll also want to consider which brand is best? What size system your home needs? And what level of efficiency do you want? 

There are many brands on the market today all claiming that their unit is the best. My advice is to stick with the major brands that only manufacture heating and air conditioning equipment, some brands are appliance companies that also make HVAC equipment. You’re looking for one of the major brands such as; Armstrong, Rheem, Carrier, Trane, or Lennox, these are companies that only focus on heating and air conditioning. 

As far as technology there aren’t a lot of big secrets in the industry and everyone of the above companies makes good quality equipment. However most established heating and air conditioning service companies choose to align themselves with one major brand, this doesn’t mean that they can’t sell other brands if the application warrants it, they can supply just about any other brand but most major brands have such an extensive product line its rare that a match can’t be found. It’s in your best interest when a company sticks with one brand. If you’re buying one brand they can leverage the strength of a strong long standing relationship to help get lower prices and better resolutions if any problems were to occur. For example, at Prestige Air we have partnered with Armstrong and Rheem. We have been trained and certified to install, repair, and complete warranty service work by these manufacturers. 

When it comes to system selection your home will pick the size of the unit. By that I mean the tonnage or size of the system that’s right for your house is determined by the square footage, infiltration rate, exterior exposure, duct system design, and other factors that you have no control over. The right size system is critical. A system that’s oversized will cause overly high utility bills, uneven temperatures and high humidity issues. An undersized unit will run all the time and still not be able to keep you comfortable. 

You’ll also hear terms such as; S.E.E.R, H.S.P.F and A.F.U.E. These are all terms that describe how efficiently the equipment operates, kind of like miles per gallon for your car. The higher the efficiency the lower the energy cost, which means the more money you pay upfront for efficiency the better it will perform for you and the lower your energy bills will be. Bottom line is, superior systems are quieter, last longer, and save you money in the long run. 

So if you need to change out your HVAC system these are a few of the options you should consider before making your final decision. 

For more info, or if you’d like us to help, give us a call or look around on our site, https://www.prestigeairtx.com/air-conditioning-service-company/ or check out this video on residential splits systems on youtube, https://youtu.be/gM18vFd2I6o

How Your Furnace and Air Conditioner Work

Today we’re walking through the process of how a furnace or an air conditioner works. If you know the different components, as well as the features and functions of what the components are doing then you’ll know why one has a benefit over the other. 

Now if your furnace is in a closet it typically sits up on a platform and sucks air from underneath the furnace, the platform typically has a grill on the front or side of it where the air is pulled from the house into the furnace closet. If it’s in the garage the furnace or air handler will still sit on a platform but the intake will be cut into the floor next to the furnace going up in through the attic then into the home and the grill is typically in the ceiling. 

Let’s say that it’s winter time, the cold air that’s in your home is being sucked in through the blower goes over the heat exchanger, heated up by the gas burners, and it warms up the air. The air now goes through the duct work and comes through the supply registers back into the home. To make it easy, fire makes air hot, it’s pretty simple. 

We’re using the laws of thermodynamics. The first law is, energy is never created or destroyed it only changes forms. A great example of the first law is the sun’s energy coming down to earth hitting plants and causing those plants to grow with its energy through photosynthesis. In a furnace the energy from the combustible gas turning into fire then hits the metal in the heat exchanger and the air from your home is flowing over that metal where the heat is transferred into it. So the furnace is pretty simple, in the winter time the blower is sucking cold air from the house, into the furnace, over the gas burners, warming the air up and returning it back into the house.

 Now if it’s summer time obviously the air in your house is going to be hot if the air conditioner isn’t running. We’re going to take that same furnace or air handler we were pulling the cold air in with and we’re going to use that blower to pull the hot air in, in the summertime. The heat in the air is held in the particulates, sometimes that’s the moisture in the air or other things, nitrogen, oxygen, whatever is in the air. So we have hot wet air passing through the filter, the filter cleans the air so that the dirt doesn’t build up on the evaporator coil that sits above the furnace, the evaporator coil has pipes that go back and forth all through it and the substance inside those pipes is extremely cold in fact most refrigerants are so cold that they boil at only forty degrees. Now we’re taking the energy from the hot molecules in the air, sucking it over the evaporator coil which takes the heat right out of it and absorbs it into the refrigerant lines, now the air molecules can continue on into the supply duct, past your registers, and back into the house. Those molecules now have a reduced amount of energy or heat in them and it feels cold. There’s really no such thing as ”cold” though, it’s just energy or no energy.

Ok let’s go back to the evaporator coil, now we’ve absorbed all this heat into the refrigerant lines and you’ve got to get rid of it somehow, if you don’t you’ve got hot air going over hot coils and nothing is going to happen. As more and more heat is absorbed into the evaporator coil the refrigerant inside expands and by the time it gets all the way to the end of the piping it’s ready to go outside as a fully evaporated gas, as it travels outside it goes into something called a condenser which typically sits on the ground although sometimes it’s placed on the roof. The easiest way to remember these items is that in the evaporator coil the refrigerant is evaporating into a gas and as the refrigerant goes outside the heat is removed in the condenser and the refrigerant condenses back into a liquid. To break it down, in the evaporator coil the system is absorbing heat and the refrigerant evaporates, at the condenser heat is being removed and the refrigerant condenses.

 Now let’s talk about the condensing unit, inside the condensing unit is the compressor, it’s the heart of the whole system, compressing the refrigerant but also sending it back and forth from the inside portion to the outside. The compressor is taking a low pressure hot gas with all the heat from your house compressing it into a very tight space so that it gets hotter. The outside air, even though it can be a hundred degrees, is going over the really hot coils exhausting that heat outside. The thing that’s pulling the outside air over the hot condenser coils is called a condenser fan, it sucks air over the condensing coils and blows it out the top of the condensing unit rejecting the heat that was absorbed from inside your home into the outside air. Another way to think of it would be to imagine your house is a canoe with a hole in it and your air conditioner is your bucket. You’re trying to bale out your heat or water faster than it can come in through your walls and windows, so that your boat doesn’t sink, or so you can stay comfortable in your home. 

That is how your furnace and air conditioner work. 

Indoor Air Quality Matters

Air pollution carries significant risk to human health, and children are particularly vulnerable. The invisible pollutants inside our buildings can lead to much higher pollution levels. Indoor air pollution affects adults and children differently, children spend most of their time indoors in the “child-breathing zone”, an area defined as being up to one meter from the floor. This means that seemingly harmless activities in the home such as laying carpets or painting rooms can have a different impact on children and thus cause serious health issues. Current ventilation systems work on the assumption of equal distribution of pollutants.

 Through the research it shows that different pollutants can occur in different layers in the air it also found that when pollutants such as dust are disturbed they can be resuspended in the air. The health problems caused by indoor air pollution are severe but also avoidable, one of the best methods of prevention is proper ventilation. When combined with greater awareness and understanding of the risks these simple measures are sufficient enough to help reduce risk to children of exposure to indoor air pollutants. 

If you would like to have the quality of the air in your home tested give us a call. We can test your indoor air quality and then discuss solutions to resolve any issues we find, as well as any other specific needs you may have. Give us a call if we can help or read more here: https://www.prestigeairtx.com/air-conditioning-service-company/indoor-air-quality/

When To Change Your Air Filter in Your AC System

Today I want to talk to you about the importance of regularly changing your air filters. As a homeowner the number one thing you can do to maintain your system is getting your air filters changed regularly. A lot of people ask questions like, “what kind of air filter should I use?” Or, “how often should I change my air filters?” Getting away from what type of filter you should use, the more important thing is that you’re changing your filters regularly. If you use 1” thick filters I like to recommend that you change your air filters once a month even if the filters say that they’re three month or ninety day filters. With the climate that we live in here in Texas the systems run a lot more frequently than in other parts of the country and the more the system runs the quicker the filter gets dirty. So therefore I always recommend changing the filter once a month. 

What a lot of people don’t realize is that a dirty air filter can seriously impact the performance of your system in a negative way. The purpose of the air filter is to keep the air clean in your home and also to keep the system clean. When the system starts getting dirty from not changing your filters out regularly enough dirt starts accumulating on components that you really don’t want dirt accumulating on, like blower motors and evaporator coils, and the result is lower efficiency in your system. It causes the HVAC system to have to run longer to achieve the same results and what that means for you is you’re spending extra money on power bills that you otherwise wouldn’t need to spend. 

There are a lot of things that affect how fast a filter will get dirty such as certain flooring like carpets, or pets and little kids as opposed to having tile or hardwood floors that don’t hold on to the dust and dirt as much. Regardless, with the climate that we live in, once a month is what I suggest would be a good time to change your air filters.

 Another thing that I’d like to point out is that filters can still be dirty even when they appear to be clean. There are a lot of little things like white dust and mineral deposit that get into the air from stand alone humidifiers that cause the filter to get extremely loaded up and it can still visually appear clean, typically when that happens you’ll hear a whistling noise or the filter will tend to be a lot louder when the system gets turned on. That’s because it’s so loaded up that air is going around the filter instead of through it, so just stick to changing the filters once a month and you won’t have to worry.

Check out our blog post How To Change Your Air Filter or watch the video on youtube here.

Indoor Air Quality 101

There are five basic types of compounds that impact the air quality in our homes: infectious illness, toxic compounds, microbial growth, allergens, and safety gases. Symptoms of these compounds can include: respiratory irritation, infection, congestion, sneezing, coughing, asthma flare ups, illness, fatigue, and much much worse as concentration levels and exposure increase. During colder months these compounds become trapped in the home, worsening our indoor air quality and affecting our health. Fortunately there are many ways to manage these compounds and clean the air we breathe. Air filtration is the first line of defense in improving indoor air quality. Some airborne compounds like radon are extremely small and can pass through traditional filters freely so consider an air filter that is rated to deal with these smaller compounds. 

Ventilating your home is as simple as keeping windows open to circulate indoor and outdoor air, of course we close our windows in the colder months for a reason, it’s cold and losing all that heated air is expensive. The solution, an energy recovery ventilator system or ERV, an ERV vents poor indoor air and draws in fresh outdoor air while keeping your home’s temperature and humidity levels stable. 

Encapsulating your dirt crawl space isolates damp, exposed earth from your home using a durable, reinforced, plastic liner. In addition to preventing mold growth, encapsulated crawl spaces can also provide a clean dry space for extra storage. 

Depressurization is the most effective solution for reducing radon levels in your home, this involves creating a pathway for radon gas to travel away from your living spaces to be vented safely outside, the EPA recommends that homes with radon levels above 4 pCi/L be mitigated, and as the leading cause of lung cancer for non-smokers, all homes should have their radon level tested. 

Another option is a dehumidifier. A dehumidifier can help deal with water vapor and condensation in your basement, reducing musty smells and moisture that mold and dust mites thrive in. A dehumidifier extracts moisture from the surrounding area, and a quality dehumidifier can extract several gallons of moisture from the air each day.

Finally, you can install an indoor air quality unit in your HVAC system. Units like the REME Halo can be installed in your supply air plenum. This unit will positively ionize the fine particles that pass through your air filter causing them to stick to one another, making them large enough to get caught in the filter on the next pass, or to fall to the floor so they can be swept or vacuumed up. These units also have a UV light that kills algae, mold, viruses, and bacteria in the air. Lastly, it produces H2O2 (hydrogen peroxide) to sanitize the air. H2O2 is non-toxic and is just as effective at sanitizing the air as ozone (O3) which is known to be toxic. 

The best option is to call an HVAC professional to come assess your home, discuss your current issues, and design a solution that fits your needs best.

Ever wonder how to change the air filter in your HVAC system? Check out our video here.

Or click here to learn more about how your AC works.