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Old 06-29-2013, 09:22 AM
 
Location: In your head, rent free
14,888 posts, read 9,419,762 times
Reputation: 7680

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We all know that the heat is going to get worse before it gets better in our area. If you've got a central AC unit here's a couple small tips to make sure it's doing the best it can.

Clean your outside AC unit (the AC condensor unit/coil)

I have no connection to Entergy but here's a quick video that they put together showing how to clean your outside unit. In the video they talk about an AC coil cleaner, you can find it in foaming spray cans in Home Depot for about $5 a can.

It's a really good idea to trim back any landscaping that is within a few feet of the unit, this unit is a large air/heat exchanger so the better air flow you can get the better the unit will work. Having your outside AC unit in the shade is a good idea but you don't want something above it that will stop air flow. The fan in the unit sucks air in through the sides through the coil and blows the now hotter air up and out the top of the unit. Because it sucks air in the sides it tends to suck up grass, dirt and leaves which will reduce the ability of it to exchange heat via the coil.

I would highly recommend NOT using a pressure washer to clean this unit, the small thin fins on the coil can easily be bent by the power of a pressure washer and bent fins = no air flow. I know more than 1 person who pressure washed their entire unit, bent most of the fins down and burned up the condenser unit. A regular hose and some elbow grease works fine.

AC-Safe Air Conditioner Coil Foaming Cleaner-AC-920 at The Home Depot


Cleaning Coils in Outside A/C Units - YouTube
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Old 06-29-2013, 09:29 AM
 
Location: In your head, rent free
14,888 posts, read 9,419,762 times
Reputation: 7680
Here's another tip, this may be a bit deep for some people but I'll throw it out there anyway.

During really hot periods where AC units are running non stop for long periods of time the most common failure by far is the starter capacitor on the outside AC unit. These capacitors usually overheat and crack or slip open in a way that you can visually see that they're toast. 25 years ago a starter capacitor would last 10 - 15 years, now you're lucky if you get 5 or 6 years out of one in the Houston climate.

The good thing about these capacitors is they're easy to get to, easy to replace, easy to diagnose and they're cheap. The bad thing is they will die at the worst possible time (weekend, night, holiday, you know the deal) and service companies will be replacing tons of these around town so something they're harder to find during peak summer times.

If you've got a central air unit you can be proactive and purchase a replacement starter capacitor, even if you aren't brave enough to change it yourself just having one on hand may save you some money and it'll make it a lot quicker/easier to get it replaced by a professional. Buying one retail or online may cost you $15 - $30 depending on size and model. If you call a service company on a weekend expect them to quote you $50 - $100 for a capacitor plus labor to swap it out. If you have one on hand any electrician can replace it and you won't be paying the premium price or you won't have to wait a day while they find your specific model.
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Old 06-29-2013, 09:38 AM
 
Location: In your head, rent free
14,888 posts, read 9,419,762 times
Reputation: 7680
Here's a good DIY video showing a good cleaning process, he also goes into the checking the capacitor which is probably a little deep for a lot of people but it's still a good video to watch.


AC not cold enough - Air Conditioner maintenance cleaning HVAC condenser condensing coils remove fan - YouTube
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Old 06-29-2013, 10:25 AM
 
1,235 posts, read 1,824,968 times
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And an FYI, capacitors can be hard to find in the traditional retail outlets. I replaced a capacitor myself a few years back and the only place I could find one was at Johnson Supply. There are a few Houston area locations. The people there are also very helpful and kind of told me how to do it.
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Old 06-29-2013, 11:00 AM
 
Location: In your head, rent free
14,888 posts, read 9,419,762 times
Reputation: 7680
Quote:
Originally Posted by Failed Engineer View Post
And an FYI, capacitors can be hard to find in the traditional retail outlets. I replaced a capacitor myself a few years back and the only place I could find one was at Johnson Supply. There are a few Houston area locations. The people there are also very helpful and kind of told me how to do it.
And most importantly, even a "bad" or failed capacitor can still light you up if you don't let it discharge. Replacing a capacitor wouldn't be something I'd recommend an amateur with no electrical knowledge try to do.
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Old 06-29-2013, 11:31 AM
 
Location: Southeast Texas
757 posts, read 1,354,438 times
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Thanks for the tips! This evening I'll check the condenser to see if it needs cleaning. We went ahead and had the capacitor replaced in April when we had our yearly check and once or twice yearly freon replacement (sometimes we can go a whole year, other times we have to replace the freon again sometime in late September).
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Old 06-29-2013, 03:37 PM
 
Location: Houston
87 posts, read 169,081 times
Reputation: 128
I just had the relay replaced and got ripped pretty bad just because I didn't know what the part was and where is was. Now I know how to check it and how to swap it out. now I know. Good post op. thanks
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Old 06-29-2013, 04:41 PM
 
482 posts, read 824,345 times
Reputation: 386
Our capicatator went out on Thursday. I saw exactly how to do it and will do it myself next time. Going to order an extra one.
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Old 06-29-2013, 05:05 PM
JL
 
8,404 posts, read 13,622,510 times
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one other thing, beware of snakes inside the A/C....my capacitor died a couple of years ago and the guy replacing it showed me the dead snake after he got done. i regret not hanging around to watch him replace the capacitor.
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Old 06-29-2013, 05:27 PM
 
Location: In your head, rent free
14,888 posts, read 9,419,762 times
Reputation: 7680
Quote:
Originally Posted by JasonAndJulie View Post
Our capicatator went out on Thursday. I saw exactly how to do it and will do it myself next time. Going to order an extra one.
How much did they charge you? Normal business hours?
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