Summer heat is just around the corner, and your best defense is a central air-conditioning system. There are a few things you can do to make sure that it’s tuned up and ready to go when the summer sun arrives.
Before you start tinkering with the system, it’s important to understand the basics of how it works. Central air consists of three main parts: the condenser, the blower unit, and the ductwork.
The condenser is the large outdoor unit. Its role is to manage the temperature of the refrigerant, usually Freon, which travels back and forth from the house. The condenser does this by pressurizing the Freon gas as it arrives, turning it into a high-temperature liquid. The Freon then travels back to the house and to the blower unit.
Once it enters the blower unit, the Freon changes into a gas and becomes colder. This cold gas then gets piped through a coil located in the ductwork. Air blows through the coil, which is how it cools down before it continues into the house. The blower unit is constantly pulling air from the house through return ducts, forcing it through the cooling coil and then back to the house through supply ducts. Then it’s back to the condenser where it is pressurized back into a liquid, and the cycle starts again.
The filters are located at the blower unit and are usually placed where the return duct meets the unit. Check your filters. A badly clogged filter slows down the airflow through the blower unit, allowing the cooling coil to ice up. This could cause your unit to shut down.
When warm air passes through the cooling coil, condensation occurs. Depending on where your blower unit is located, this moisture may go into a gravity-fed drain, or it may go into a pan under the blower unit. If it’s in a basement, the pan may have a small pump to move the water to a drain. If the unit is in an attic, the water may just enter the pan and evaporate.
Check the metal fins on the condenser. Hail can damage these fins. Much like the radiator in your car, these fins play a crucial role in temperature management. If the fins are bent or cracked, they will have to be repaired or the condenser unit will not work properly.