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Frequently Asked Questions
What are the three main components of an AC unit?
The three main components of an AC unit are the cabinet, the refrigeration section, and the blower (fan) section. The cabinet is the sheet metal box that the refrigeration and blower sections live in.
What happens if I don’t regularly change the filter?
The filter’s first and foremost job is to protect the heat-transfer coil from getting dirty. Once the heat-transfer coil gets dirty, the amount of AC your unit produces will drop off drastically until it either shuts itself off on an internal safety control device, or a component failure occurs.
The heat transfer coil is essentially a series of copper tubes that have small and sharp aluminum fins bonded to the copper. Cold refrigerant flows through the copper tubes while warm air flow from the home is moved across the aluminum fins.
The heat from the air is transferred through the metal surface to the refrigerant and voila, the air leaves the AC unit nice and cold.
In a nutshell, if you don’t keep a clean filter in your AC unit, you’re probably fine for a little while, but over time, as the filter gets dirty, some of that dirt starts making its way onto your heat-transfer coil, which starts to reduce the AC units’ ability to make cooled air.
Additionally, the dirty filter causes the blower fan to work harder and move less air. Yes, you can always clean your heat transfer coil with a brush or a vacuum, but maintaining a clean filter is an easy way to stay ahead of a dirty coil.
What are the most common problems encountered during an AC service trouble call?
The most common issues that we encounter are:
- Failed Compressors
- Failed Condenser Water Control Valves
- Failed or Noisy Fans & Fan Motors
- Refrigerant Leaks
Without going too deep, these scenarios typically require some level of troubleshooting to diagnose and resolve. To make matters worse, the original AC units were built utilizing a style of refrigerant known as R-22. This style of refrigerant was identified a number of years ago as being a contributor of ozone depletion, but due to its popularity in the AC market, it could not simply be eliminated, and instead required a phase-out process.
In 2021, R-22 refrigerant is no longer produced domestically, and can only be obtained through means of recovery or reclamation from existing R-22 systems. This means that finding a new replacement R-22 compressor to replace an existing failed one is not easy to do and is very expensive.
The good news is that the AC unit manufacturer offers a brand-new refrigeration section which utilizes a newer style of refrigerant with readily available replacement components. The cost of the refrigeration section is significantly higher than the cost of the compressor alone, but it replaces all of the old refrigeration and heat transfer components that are quickly approaching the end of their life cycle.
If I want to replace my AC unit with a new one, do I have to cut it out of the wall?
If you want a new AC unit from a different manufacturer, yes, you will likely have to open up the walls around it in order to remove the entire cabinet. However, if you’d prefer not to have holes in your walls, the existing AC unit cabinet doesn’t have to come out for you to get a new AC unit.
Remember, the cabinet is just the sheet metal sheet that the refrigeration and blower section live in, so as long as the cabinet is not deteriorating inside your walls, there’s no reason to change it.
Simply removing the front wall cover and looking inside should give you a pretty good idea of the condition of the unit, and chances are extremely unlikely that the cabinet is in decent shape. As stated previously, the manufacturer offers a replacement refrigeration section as a complete module, as well as a similar module for the blower section.
That means you can replace everything inside of the AC unit cabinet in two separate modules, rather than worrying about each individual component. Each module installs relatively quickly, and usually within a day’s worth of work, you essentially have a brand new AC unit.
Are all residential units the same?
No. Residential AC units can vary. In fact, condo units are connected to a set of supply-and-return water lines which run up and down the building, better known as condenser water rises.
These condenser water risers pump cooler water through the AC unit, and return warmer water back to a cooling tower on the roof of the building. The term “heat pump” is derived from the process that the AC unit performs, whereby a compressor “pumps” heat from a low temperature heat source (warm air inside the home) to a higher temperature heat sink (building condenser water).
My AC unit doesn’t seem to be blowing cold air. We’ve had it off for the last six months and the last we checked, it worked fine. How can something be wrong with it if it hasn’t been used?
A body in motion tends to stay in motion. Believe it or not, mechanical equipment likes to be used, AC units included. Yes, running your AC unit requires power, which costs money; this doesn’t mean you need to run the AC 24/7, but periodically running the unit allows the mechanical components to stay in motion, which is what they were designed to do.
I haven’t had any maintenance done to my AC unit in a while, but I don’t really want to hire someone to do it. Is there anything I can do myself?
Periodic maintenance is an unfortunate requirement if you’re looking to prolong the life of your AC unit and keep it performing at its best. The good news is that it’s not all that hard to do, if you’re the kind of person that doesn’t mind looking underneath the hood.
There’s also an entire manual written to help you through it. If you don’t have a copy of the manual and you don’t wish to find it via a good, old-fashioned Google search, we can easily email you a copy upon request.
The easiest and most important item of maintenance that a homeowner can perform is the filter change. These filters are not expensive, but some sizes need to be ordered as opposed to being readily available. Any retail customer can call or walk into a local AC supply house, such as Cosco Refrigeration or Admor HVAC supply to inquire or to purchase a replacement filter.
To check your AC filter, use a screwdriver on the two screws securing the wall cover plate in place. The screws should be one-fourth turn and don’t need to be completely removed to pull the cover off. Be careful not to yank too hard on the cover if it’s stuck; just support the weight with your foot while you find the position of the screw that releases the latch.
Once you have the cover plate removed, the filter will be immediately visible at knee-level, and it will slide out of the track that it’s in. You’ll need to note the size when finding a replacement: L x W x H.
Filters are rated based on how much filtration the filter is able to perform. For comparison, a typical residential AC unit filter has a MERV rating of around 4.8. A MERV rating of 13 to 14 is typical for hospital rooms and some labs, and the highest rating (17 to 20) is typically associated with HEPA filtration. Caution: a higher MERV rating is not always better for your AC unit. The existing filters are one-inch thick, and the more filtration a filter performs, the overall amount of cold air that your AC unit can push can potentially decrease.
Is it common for AC contractors to offer free estimates?
It depends on if you know which problems your AC unit already has, and if you can explain it to a contractor. In that scenario, you shouldn’t have to pay for an estimate. Or, if you know that you want the refrigeration section or blower section (or both) replaced, you shouldn’t have to pay for an estimate.
The contractor just needs to know the model and serial number of your particular AC unit, which is, again, found by removing the access cover panel. However, if you have a problem and don’t know the cause, but you want repairs to be made, it will be challenging to find a contractor willing to troubleshoot for free.
The next challenge is finding an AC contractor that you can trust (not all contractors are the same). The reality is that the condo AC units are connected to a building-wide condenser water system, which is a system specific to high-rise/larger condo buildings, and is not a common residential style system. This means that most residential AC contractors won’t be very familiar with your system and may not have the expertise to correctly troubleshoot.
Commercial AC service companies are generally more familiar with troubleshooting this style of AC units, but are often very difficult to get a hold of or are not interested in servicing retail customers.
Finding a service contractor that is knowledgeable, responsive, and trustworthy is not easy. If your only option is to open the digital phone book, a couple of good qualifying questions are, “are you familiar with ClimateMaster vertical stack condenser water heat pumps,” and/or, “do you have a lot of experience with water-cooled AC systems?”
How can we help you?
94-1388 Moaniani St Ste 414
Waipahu, HI 96797
M-F: 8am – 5pm