Three in every four American homes have air conditioning, and in places like Maui, air conditioners have been replacing natural ventilation especially in relatively new homes. Old architectural designs of houses have open windows that allow winds to ventilate homes. Young homeowners, however, veer from such home designs, thus opting for air conditioning, which is much more comfortable than open windows on a hot summer day.
We like educating customers about air conditioning systems because that’s one way of empowering them. When you know how something works, you know how to keep it in good condition. Here are five frequently asked questions about air conditioners that everyone should know:
1. How an AC works?
Air conditioners work like refrigerators, relying on coolants or refrigerants to transfer heat. What’s basically happening when an AC is running is a transfer of heat.
This cooling system has an outdoor unit and an indoor unit. The outdoor unit typically has the compressor and condenser. The indoor unit houses the evaporator. These components have to work together to provide you cool air.
When the refrigerant travels from the evaporator coil to the compressor, the compressor (as its name implies) compresses this gas. The gas liquefies as a result of extreme pressure, which also turns it hot as molecules are being compressed.
The liquefied refrigerant moves out of the compressor as a hot fluid that travels to the condenser coil. Housed in the outdoor unit, the condenser coil dissipates the heat to the metal fins, and the condenser fan removes much of this heat out of the system.
The refrigerant moves away from the condenser as a cooled fluid, but it’s still too hot. It has to be cooled down before entering the evaporator coil. Thus, it has to pass through the expansion valve, whose job is opposite that of the compressor. The expansion valve causes the fluid to expand into a gas. Note that when the same amount of gas expands, it cools down.
As air moves into your AC’s indoor unit, it encounters the cold evaporator coil. Important heat exchange occurs here wherein air loses heat as the coil absorbs it. Cooled air is then blown out of the indoor unit and into your home. This is the cool air that you feel circulating in your rooms.
As the evaporator coil absorbs heat from the air passing over it, the refrigerant inside heats up. The heated refrigerant travels to the compressor, where it is again compressed. The cycle repeats. This is what’s happening inside your Maui air conditioner.
2. Do air conditioners still use CFCs?
Most of the air conditioners used before 2000 has chlorofluorocarbons or CFCs as their refrigerants. Scientists discovered, though, that these chemicals could destroy the ozone layer. Hence, the manufacture of these chemicals was stopped in 1995.
Today the refrigerant commonly used is halogenated CFCs, which are also being discontinued. By 2020, the production of HCFCs will have mostly ceased. Home air conditioners use mainly HCFC-22 (sometimes called R-22), a chemical that companies have been phasing out since 2010 and will be phased out completely in 2020.
Manufacturers are moving towards ozone-safe alternatives. That’s why hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) will be the chief refrigerant for air conditioners. Ammonia is also being considered as a good alternative.
If you’re using an older air conditioner running on CFCs, you can still help stop ozone depletion by reducing your AC usage, sealing and insulating your home, and maintaining your AC. Old units that have gone defective should be replaced with new and efficient models.
3. What are the types of air conditioners?
Central air conditioning is common on Maui. Most homeowners and business owners prefer this to window units because of efficiency. This type of air conditioning relies on ducts and registers to supply cool air to rooms in a house or building. However, installing central air conditioners is expensive and requires much planning.
Room air conditioners are also popular, especially among small homes, shops, and offices. They come as window units or portable coolers. A window unit is compact and can be installed in a room, and because it’s limited to a single room, it can’t cool the rest of the house. You will have to install separate units in other rooms if you want to cool them as well. Perhaps that’s why the portable AC was made. It’s like the window unit because it cools a small space, but it’s not stuck in the wall. Instead, you can move it around the house. For some people, this is a perfect choice.
On the other hand, there’s a bridge that fills the gap between central air conditioning and room units. It’s called the ductless air conditioner. Also called mini-split systems, ductless air conditioners are similar to central AC’s because their outdoor units house the compressor and condenser and their indoor units house the air handler. You can have as many as four indoor units; it’s like having separate room air conditioners all attached to one outdoor unit. Each indoor handling unit has its own thermostat, so you can control the temperature in one room without affecting the other.
4. What are the common problems with air conditioners?
We have been fixing broken air conditioners on Maui for more than 10 years, and we keep seeing the same problems over and over. One of the most common is the system being low on refrigerant. It could be because the unit was undercharged from the get-go or because of a leak. If the unit is undercharged, adding a refrigerant should solve the issue. But if it’s leaking, the leak should be fixed first before adding the right amount of coolant.
Problems with the electrical components are also quite common. These issues usually affect the compressor and fans and are usually due to wear and tear as a result of the unit turning on and off too often. Hence, such problems are common in oversized units.
Other problems that compel people to call air conditioner repair on Maui are broken thermostat sensors and drainage issues, which should be fixed as soon as they are discovered. However, perhaps there is no greater liability for a homeowner than failure to maintain their cooling (and heating) systems, which brings us to our next point.
5. How do I maintain my AC?
Many air conditioner maintenance tasks can be done by you. Cleaning the exterior component can be done by an average person with decent DIY skills. If you can remove the fan cage, you can remove the debris inside and clean the condenser coil and fins with a vacuum or garden nozzle. Other jobs that you may be able to do are cleaning the filters and cleaning or declogging the evaporator drain. Some people can clean their evaporator coil, but many people prefer having it professionally cleaned. Nonetheless, professional maintenance once a year keeps your unit in good shape. Professional maintenance includes tasks that only licensed air conditioning technicians should perform.
Call Pacific Air Conditioner at 808-244-0161 for your Maui air conditioner concerns.