The AC System And How Maintenance Helps Extend It’s Life (with an emphasis on Florida weather)
Imagine enduring a scorching Florida summer without an air conditioner. Sounds like a nightmare, right? We rely on our AC units heavily, and yet we often take them for granted. HVAC systems are complex machines that need routine maintenance to keep them running smoothly, just like your car. In fact, you’d have to drive approximately 210,000 miles per year for your car to work as hard as your AC unit.
How exactly does an AC work? What are the parts that make up an AC? How does regular maintenance extend the life of your AC? In this post, we’ll answer these questions and more.
Different Types of AC Systems
There are various types of AC systems. The AC system you currently use will most likely depend on the type of home you have. The main types of AC systems are:
- Central air conditioners
- Ductless air conditioners
- Window units
- Portable units
- Hybrid air conditioners
I Need The Plumber & Air Conditioning can provide service for any type of AC unit that you use in your Florida home. Today, we will focus on central air conditioning units and how they operate.
The Split System
Central AC systems are also referred to as split systems because they are broken up into two distinct parts. Both parts work together to make your home cool. One part, the condenser unit, is located outside your home. The second part, the air handling unit, is located inside your home.
The condenser unit is often located in your backyard or on the side of your home. If you ever wondered what those large boxes were doing to help cool your home, you’re about to find out. Inside the condenser unit you will find:
The compressor sucks in warm refrigerant from the inside unit. The once-cold refrigerant has become hot and turned to vapor, and the compressor pressurizes the vapor, making it even hotter. It then spits the vapor into the condenser coil.
The Condenser Coil
The condenser coil receives the refrigerant vapor from the compressor and turns it back to liquid. The condenser coil then proceeds to cool the refrigerant by releasing heat. Once the refrigerant is at a low enough temperature, it will be sent back into the home so that it can cool the air being pushed through your ducts.
The condenser fan has the job of blowing out the heat that is released by the condenser coil. If you ever put your hand over your condenser unit and feel hot air being blown up, this is why. The condenser unit quite literally expels the heat from your home.
Air Handling Unit
In our area, the air handling unit is often located in attics or garages. Even though it may be out of sight, it’s performing a vital part of the air conditioning process by distributing the cold air to your home. The air handling unit is made up of:
The Evaporator Coil
The evaporator coil connects the outdoor condensing unit with the indoor air handling unit. Its job is to change the liquid refrigerant into a vapor and absorb the heat from the air as it passes over the coil, dropping the air temperature and removing humidity. The Superheated vapor is then sent back to the condenser to shed the heat and start the process over. The Cooled and dehumidified air is then sent into the living space.
The blower is located right above the evaporator coil. It is essentially a fan that pulls the cold air released from the evaporator and blows it through your air ducts.
Replaceable filters are installed in the air handling unit. The air from your home re-enters the AC system through the air ducts, which then passes through these filters. The filters do a great job of removing dust particles from the air in your home.
Located inside your home (usually on a wall), the thermostat is the device used to control your indoor temperature.
All of the elements of a split AC system must operate efficiently in order to battle the Florida heat. If even one of these parts breaks down or becomes damaged, it can weaken your AC’s ability to keep your home cool.
Now let’s examine how maintenance can help your Florida AC and extend its lifespan.
How Do I Know When My AC Needs Maintenance?
If you’re running your AC all day long and you’re still breaking a sweat indoors, there’s probably something wrong.
Don’t wait to schedule maintenance because you’re unsure if you need it. An inefficient AC, if left unchecked, can inflate your utility bill and cause costly damage. Like any machine, the more care and attention you give it over the years, the better it will run and the longer it will last.
Cleaning the Condenser Coil
Cleaning the condenser coil regularly will help the AC unit function at its highest capacity. Because the condensers are kept outside, they often become filled with dirt, leaves, dust, and other grime. When the condenser coil gets dirty enough, it will make it harder for the condenser to transfer out heat, thus making it harder to cool your home.
Cooling professionals, or qualified HVAC technicians, can perform routine AC maintenance that will identify when your condenser coil is in need of a cleaning. Scheduling yearly maintenance can ensure that your condenser coil does not become overly dirty and performs its best throughout the year.
Think about all that you do to take care of your car. You take it into a mechanic to get periodic oil changes. You fill the tires with air. You replace windshield wiper fluid.
Why not give the same attention and routine maintenance to your AC unit? When you schedule an AC maintenance checkup, a cooling professional will check on a number of things, including:
- Operating pressure
- Coolant levels
- Amp draw of the compressor
- Cleaning the condensate drain
- Checking the cleanliness of the coils
If any of these AC issues need repair but don’t receive it, you are in for trouble. Don’t let your AC go unchecked and allow unseen problems to get worse.
Switching Out Filters
If you purchase new filters you can do this yourself, but if you don’t feel comfortable doing it, don’t be afraid to consult a professional. A professional AC maintenance technician can help you change out filters as well as inspect the unit for any additional signs of damage.
We recommend changing your filters every month, especially during peak season or if you have allergies or pets. Especially in Florida where AC units work overtime, filters can quickly become dusty and gross. Changing out your filters regularly will make sure you and your family are not inhaling dust particles all day. It will also make the AC more efficient, which means it will last longer!
How Much Longer Will Maintenance Extend the AC’s Life?
It’s tough to say, but the average lifespan of a central AC unit is 10 to 12 years. Keep in mind, this is merely an average. It is not uncommon for poorly maintained AC’s to run their course after 8 years. On the flipside, a well-maintained AC system could last for 15 years or more.
So, let’s do the math. An average central AC unit purchase and installation costs $5,280. If you treat it poorly, it will last for 8 years and end up costing you $660 a year. If you give it routine maintenance and it lasts for 15 years, that monthly average goes down to $352. That’s a yearly savings of $308.
That means that the cost of periodic AC maintenance is peanuts compared to the monster savings you can make in the long run. Keeping your AC well maintained will extend its life, and save you a lot of dough!