Tuesday, September 26, 2023

U.S. Department of Energy, local business explain why air-conditioning units burn out

(Courtesy of energy.gov)
(Courtesy of energy.gov)

Consumers often operate air conditioners incorrectly.

That’s according to the U.S Department of Energy, which lists faulty installation and inadequate maintenance as other top consumer issues with air-conditioning systems. A local businessperson agrees.

“In this kind of weather, the biggest thing we push is consistent maintenance,” Lauren Smith, marketing coordinator at One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning in Virginia Beach, said in a phone interview.

The business receives more calls during heat waves, Smith said.

“The heat temperatures will dip down at some point in the day, but when it’s this hot outside, the unit’s literally going 24/7, gets overworked and if you’re not doing maintenance – changing filters and closing windows – it puts even more stress on it,” Smith said.

Two-thirds of all U.S. homes are equipped with air conditioners, which use about 5 percent of all electricity generated in the U.S., according to the DOE. They account for $11 billion of annual homeowner spending.

Still, air-conditioning maintenance is something many people gloss over, Smith said.

Improper installation of a central air conditioner can result in leaky ducts and low airflow, according to DOE. A unit with an incorrect amount of refrigerant in the system is not fully effective; this error occurs often with unqualified service technicians, DOE said.

According to DOE, a well-trained technician should complete the following:

  • Check for the correct amount of refrigerant
  • Test for refrigerant leaks with a leak detector
  • Capture any refrigerant that must be evacuated from the system, instead of illegally releasing it into the atmosphere
  • Check for and seal duct leakage in central systems
  • Measure airflow through the evaporator coil
  • Verify the correct electric control sequence and make sure the heating and cooling systems can’t operate at the same time
  • Inspect electric terminals, clean and tighten connections and, if necessary, apply a non-conductive coating 
  • Oil motors and check belts for tightness and wear
  • Check the accuracy of the thermostat.

Preemptive maintenance isn’t something most consumers set high on their priority lists, Smith said, though the upkeep could save hundreds or even $1,000.

“I think it’s one of  those things in the back of your head,” Smith said. “Like car maintenance – it’s there working for you, so you don’t really know what to do until something breaks.”

A full description of common air-conditioning problems and solutions can be found here.


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