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Question: Where should I look for refrigerant leaks on my AC unit?

ultrasonic leak detector

Question: My air conditioning system is leaking refrigerant somewhere? Every year we have to call an HVAC company to charge our system which is quite expensive! Where should I look for refrigerant leaks on my AC unit? Where are the most common places in the air conditioning system where leaks are found most often?

Answer: We have this question asked quite often. Finding refrigerant leaks is probably the most difficult joy that an HVAC tech has to do. Refrigerant leaks can be found in easy to see places or in almost impossible to see places. When I was doing HVAC service work if I did not see any leaks (oily spots) on the outdoor unit or oily spots on the refrigerant line set I would inject fluorescent dye in the system, allow the dye to circulate for a few days then come back with a black light in dark conditions to try and find the leak. Most leaks that I found were in the indoor evaporator coil. The dye was good but time-consuming. It was good that I could show the customer where the leak/leaks were, but bad that I had to make two trips and spend lots of time uncovering the evaporator coil to see the leaks. Probably 90% of the time the customer needed a new evaporator coil to stop the leaks. Below we have a really good YouTube video made by AC Service Tech LLC that explains and shows the top 10 spots where air conditioner leaks occur most often. Thanks so very much to AC Service Tech LLC for making this excellent YouTube Video! AC Service Tech uses an ultrasonic leak detector to find many of the leaks in this video. I sure wish they had ultrasonic leak detectors when I was doing service work. Those ultrasonic leak detectors are not cheap about $450 to $600, but seem to be really good!  Here is the written list of the 10 most common spots where refrigerant leaks are found. The YouTube video is really good at explaining these leaky areas in more detail. If you have any questions please comment below or email us anytime support@arnoldservice.com We would love to help you out and earn your business!

Here are the top 10 spots where leaks in air conditioners and heat pump occur most often:

  1. Leaking Shrader valve caps or sometimes called Schrader valve cores. Make sure the Schrader valve caps are in good condition. We sell a set of 10 really good Schrader valve caps on the following page. Please click here if you are interested in seeing the Schrader valve caps that we sell.
  2. Leaking on the indoor evaporator coil where the tubing goes through the galvanized tin.
  3. Leaking in the joints of the evaporator coil tubing where the tubing is brazed together.
  4. Leaking in the refrigerant distributor tubes at the evaporator coil.
  5. Leaking in the middle of the tubing in the evaporator coil. The tubing is extremely thin.
  6. Leaking “O” rings on the outdoor service valves.
  7. Leaking outdoor condenser coil.
  8. Leaking filter driers where brazing has burnt the paint off the drier and rusted over time. Poor brazing on the filter driers.
  9. Leaking accumulator tank. Some AC units and many heat pumps have accumulators than are prone to rusting and leaking.
  10. Leaking bottom tubes on the condenser coil where leaves and debris have been allowed to accumulate causing the tubing to rot and leak.

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Problem My Air Conditioner Is Not Cooling My House? 20 Reasons Why

troubleshooting air conditioners and heat pumps

Problem: We have many people ask us this general question, “Why is my air conditioner not cooling my house? I set my thermostat on 72 and our AC never reaches the 72-degree temperature!”

Answer: There are many reasons why your air conditioner or heat pump might not be cooling your home properly. We have a really good YouTube video made by Word of Advice TV that explains in detail 20 reasons why that an air conditioner or heat pump will not cool your home. Thanks so very much to Word of Advice TV for making this great video! I list the 20 reasons below, but the video does a much better job of explaining.

Here are the 20 reasons:

  1. Outdoor unit not running at all. Please click here to see how to troubleshoot when the AC will not come on at all. 
  2. The unit has a bad, weak, or dead capacitor. Please click here to see the new capacitors that we sell.
  3. The unit has a locked up compressor.  We sell compressor hard start boosters that might help free a locked up compressor on the following page: Please click here to see the compressor hard start boosters that we sell. 
  4. The unit has a bad condenser fan motor. We sell condenser fan motors on the following page: Please click here to see the condenser fan motors that we sell: 
  5. A dirty furnace or a dirty air handler filter. A dirty filter will restrict airflow and cause freeze-ups and other problems.
  6. A plugged or dirty evaporator coil. If the evaporator coil is dirty it will restrict airflow and cause freeze-ups. Many coils will accumulate dirt, lint and hair on the underside of the coil. The evaporator coil needs to be inspected and cleaned if dirty. Please click here if you are interested in some evaporator coil cleaner that we sell.
  7. A dirty outdoor condenser coil. If the outdoor coil is dirty it will cause the unit to run at high pressure and cooling will be greatly reduced! We need to have a clean condenser coil for the AC unit to be able to do its job and run properly. Please click here if you are interested in some condenser coil cleaner that we sell. 
  8. Dirty return grill. Make sure that your air conditioner return registers are not blocked with furniture, dirty, or lint.
  9. Bad or malfunctioning thermostat or thermostat batteries. Yes, make sure that the batteries are in good condition.
  10. Programmable thermostat problem where the programmable thermostat is not set to the right program. This makes you feel like the thermostat has a mind of its own or is haunted! Ha! To over-ride most programmable thermostats just push the “Hold” button and then the desired temperature that you want.
  11. The homeowner waits too long to turn the AC on and the AC can not catch up in cooling the home for a long time because the home started out too hot. For example, If a homeowner waits until the home gets to 85 degrees on a 95-degree day then it can cause the AC to run probably all day long and most of the night to cool the home down.
  12. The unit is low on Freon or refrigerant. Of course, the AC can not cool properly if the unit is low on refrigerant charge. You or a service tech would need to attach gauges and temp sensors to make sure that your unit is charged properly.
  13. Leaks in the ductwork can cause the air conditioner to not cool properly. We would suggest inspecting your ductwork to make sure there are no leaks in the ductwork. You may need to go into the attic, crawl space, or basement to inspect the ducts. We sell some really good foil duct tape on the following page: Please click here if you would like to see the duct tape that we recommend and sell.
  14. An under-sized unit can cause a unit to not cool properly. A Manual J heat gain and heat loss calculation should be completed before any air conditioning system is installed. The Manual J calculation will tell the homeowner how much heat is lost in the wintertime and how much heat is gained in the wintertime so the homeowner and contractor can install the right size furnace and air conditioner.  The Manual J calculations take into consideration many variables that are calculated on most of the time a computer program the contractor has. The Manual J calculation considers the number of windows, doors, what kind of windows and doors, the R values, the amount of insulation, which direction the home is facing, and whether or not the home is brick or vinyl siding.  This Manual J calculation is very important so that the homeowner knows he/she is getting the right size furnace and air conditioner.
  15. An Air to Air or HVR (heat vent recovery) system that is running all the time can cause a home to not cool properly. If you have an HVR system I would recommend making sure that it is running properly.
  16. Open window or doors. This is common sense to have windows and doors closed. Heat travels from hot to cold so if a door or window is open the outdoor heat will seak to enter a cool house.
  17. A bad air conditioning installation job or a hack job where the contactor or installer did not know what they were doing and did not install the AC system right.
  18. Bad zone controllers or bad dampers. Make sure that if you do have zone controllers and dampers that they are opening and closing properly. If you have a manually controlled damper like in the pictures below make sure that the dampers are open on all your duct runs so that air can circulate through the duct and into your home. Many times I will find that the dampers are loose and have become closed thus restricting airflow! On most round duct dampers if the handle is parallel with the duct run then the damper is open. If the handle is perpendicular with the duct run then the damper is closed.

19. A poorly vented attic where the roof vents are stopped up with insulation or are nonexistent. A poorly vented attic causes a tremendous build of heat that can be transferred into the homes living space. Make sure that the attic is vented properly.

20. A poorly insulated house can cause heat to enter and leave the home. Make sure that you have enough insulation in your home to stop so much heat gain in the summer and heat loss in the winter.

 

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How Do I Bypass My Thermostat to see if the Thermostat is Bad?

Problem: My air conditioner or furnace will not work. Is there a way to test the thermostat to see if the thermostat is the problem? Can I bypass my thermostat to see if the thermostat is bad?

Answer: We have this question asked many times. The first thing that I would like to suggest that you do would be to make sure that if your thermostat uses batteries to make sure the batteries are in good condition. Also, make sure that the power switch on the side of the furnace is turned on. We have seen many preventable service calls where all our customers had to do was flip the power switch on the side of the furnace! With the furnace door’s safety switch taped down and with the furnace’s power switch turned ON use a voltmeter set to “Volts AC” and test between R and C (com) terminals on the furnace’s control board. You should get 24 to 28 volts AC (alternating current) between R and C on your furnace’s or air handler’s control board. If you are not getting 24 volts AC then you might have a blown fuse on the control board/transformer or a burnt-out low voltage transformer. We sell low voltage transformers on the following page: Please click here to see the low voltage transformers we sell. 

If everything checks out on the low voltage side then you can test to see if the thermostat is at fault by bypassing the thermostat. Bypassing the thermostat is a great way to troubleshoot the thermostat to see if the thermostat is at fault. We have a really good YouTube video from Word of Advice TV that explains in detail how to bypass the thermostat to see if the thermostat is bad. Thanks so very much to Word of Advice TV for making this informative, excellent video. If you have any questions please email us anytime. Our email address is Support@arnoldservice.com  If you would like to comment then please feel free to comment in the comments section below. We Would Love to Help You Out and Earn Your Business! 

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10 Reasons Why AC Contactor is Not Pulling In

Bryant Carrier Air Conditioner Contactor

Problem: My air conditioner or heat pump contactor contacts will not pull down. If I press in on the contacts with an insulated screwdriver the unit will run just fine. When I quit pushing down manually with the screwdriver the contacts open and my AC shuts off!  What is causing the contactor to not pull down and start my air conditioner?

Answer: We have this question asked many times during the air conditioning season. There are at least 10 reasons why the contactor on an air conditioner or heat pump will not pull in. Below I listed the 10 reasons. We also have a great YouTube video made by Word of Advice TV that explains these 10 reasons in detail. Many thanks to Word of Advice TV for making this informative, excellent video! If you have any questions please email us anytime support@arnoldservice.com. We would love to help you out and earn your business! 

10 Reasons why the Air Conditioner Contactor is not pulling in: 

  1. The furnace power switch or the air handler breaker might be turned off. The furnace door might be loose and allowing the door safety switch to not be engaged. Make sure the furnace power switch is on and your furnace blower door is on tight.
  2. Make sure that your condensate pump safety switch has not tripped. Make sure that your condensate pump is working. If a condensate pump is not working then sometimes (if connected) the safety switch will go off and cause the entire AC system to shut down so that you do not get water damage in your home.
  3. You could have a bad thermostat or bad, loose thermostat wiring. Make sure that all your thermostat wires are good and tight.
  4. You could have bad wiring. I would recommend that you check all wiring to make sure that the insulation is good and there are no breaks in the wires. I have seen animals and weed eaters damage the thermostat wires and cause the fuse to blow on the control board or cause the low voltage transformer to burn up.
  5. You could have a bad 5-minute delay board. We sell some of these delay timers on the following page: Please click here if you would like to see some of the delay timers we sell. There are different makes and model timers, but they can go bad and cause the air conditioner to no come on.
  6. You could have a bad control board in the furnace or loose wires coming from the furnace control board.
  7. You could have a bad power saver switch that is installed by the electric company to control the time that your air conditioner is on in the summertime. There is a way to temporarily bypass this switch to see if this is the problem.
  8. You could have an open, tripped or bad HPS (High-Pressure Switch) LPS (Low-Pressure Switch).  If your unit is low on refrigerant charge then the low-pressure switch might be open or tripped. If your unit is dirty, over-charged, has a restriction in the system, or has a slow or broken fan motor (might need a new capacitor) then the high-pressure switch might be open or tripped.
  9. You might have a bad contactor. Either the contactor 24-volt coil can go bad, the contacts could be burnt or pitted or insects and dirty might get in between the contacts and cause the contactor to not work. We sell many different contactors on the following page: Please click here if you would like to see the contactors we sell. 
  10. You could have a bad low voltage transformer. Most of the time when a low voltage transformer is bad or burnt out it is caused by a low voltage short in the low voltage wiring. Most of the time it is in the low voltage thermostat wires where animals, weedeaters, or a breakdown of the insulation in the wires from being exposed to sunlight over the years. Check the thermostat wires for breaks, worn insulation, and grounding out where the wires travel through the furnace, air handler, or air conditioner’s frame. I have seen many ground out shorts and burnt out transformers caused by animals and worn wire insulation where the wires travel through the frame of the furnace, air handler, air conditioner, or heat pump unit.  We sell many low voltage transformers. Please click here if you would like to see the transformers that we sell. 

Below is an excellent YouTube Video that discusses these 10 reasons in detail. Thanks so very much to Word of Advice TV for making this great video!

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Problem: Why is my Air Conditioner Contactor Going Out So Often?

Bryant Carrier Air Conditioner Contactor

Problem: Why do I have to replace my air conditioner contactor so often? This happens every couple of weeks. Either my contactor’s contacts are welded closed which keeps the air conditioner running continuously without me being able to turn it off without pulling the high voltage disconnect or the contactor quits working altogether?

Answer: Thanks so much for asking this question!  I have seen many contactors go out prematurely in our HVAC business.  Contactors going out prematurely are usually caused by dirt, moisture, or low voltage. I would like to suggest that you test your coil voltage and make sure that you are keeping a minimum of 24 volts AC to the contactor coil. If you are not getting at least 24 volts AC to the contactor coil then contactor contacts will chatter, vibrate, arc, and burn the contactor out prematurely. If you are not getting at least 24 volts to the contactor then you might have a loose low voltage wire connection, a thermostat that needs new batteries or you might need a new transformer or a transformer with a  higher VA rating. Most transformers are 40 VA. You might want to get a transformer that is more than 40 VA. We have a really good YouTube Video made by #ToolboxTuesday below that describes what causes contactors to fail. Thanks #ToolboxTuesday for making this excellent video!   Please click here if you are interested in a good universal low voltage transformerPlease click here if you are interested in a new contactor. Please email us anytime if you have any questions. Our email address is support@arnoldservice.comWe would love to help you out and have your business! We hope that this post helps you find out what is causing your contactor to fail so often.  We hope you all have a great and blessed day! 

 

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Problem: Please explain the refrigeration cycle that is used in air conditioners and heat pumps?

troubleshooting air conditioners and heat pumps

Problem: Please explain the refrigeration cycle that is used in air conditioners and heat pumps? I do not understand how an air conditioner changes a vapor into a liquid? How can this cool my home?

Answer: Great question! This question and how the refrigeration cycle works in air conditioners and heat pumps is what totally excited me about learning the HVAC business! This is totally amazing how this works!  Can you imagine how excited and jubilant Willis Carrier was in 1902 when he invented the first air conditioning system! The refrigerant cycle amazes me how a high-pressure high-temperature gas vapor can be changed into a liquid in the condenser, then shot through a metering device to produce low pressure, low-temperature vapor in the evaporator to cool our homes!!! We have two really good quick YouTube videos below where AC Service Tech explains the refrigeration cycle. I explain the refrigeration cycle in more detail below the video. This really amazes me how air conditioners and heat pumps work!  If you have any questions please let us know. Our email address is Support@arnoldservice.com

We would love to help you out and earn your business!

 

I explain the refrigeration cycle in more detail below:

  1. The refrigeration system, your air conditioning system is a hermetically sealed system. You do not want any dirt, moisture, or foreign materials inside the refrigeration system or you will have problems over time. This is why HVAC techs evacuate the system with a Vaccum pump and install filters driers to make sure the system is clean and sealed. No leaks are a must.
  2. The compressor is the heart of the refrigeration cycle. The job of the compressor is to take a low-pressure low-temperature gas and make it into a high-temperature high-pressure gas.
  3. The compressor sends this high-temperature high-pressure gas into the air conditioner’s condensing unit where the refrigerant goes through a long series of tubing and coils where the condenser fan cools the refrigerant so that the high-temperature high-pressure vapor is cooled and condensed into a high-pressure medium temperature liquid! My HVAC teacher said to think of the refrigerant being cooled and turning into a liquid as like at night time when the air is cooled by not having the warm sun. The vapor water in the air is cooled and it comes down on the grass like dew. This made it so easy for me to understand. Yes! Water in the air is cooled at night then we have dew on the ground in the morning!
  4. This high-pressure medium temperature liquid is sent to the metering device. This metering device could be a capillary tube, TXV (thermostatic expansion valve), or a restrictor orifice. I have pictures of these three different metering devices below.
Above Cap Tube metering device.
Above TXV Metering Device:
Above Orifice Metering Device:

5. The metering device has a high-pressure liquid refrigerant (R22, R410A) on the front side and as the refrigerant passes through the metering device and is sprayed into the evaporator coil it changes the high-pressure medium temperature liquid into a low pressure, low-temperature vapor. This is where we get cooling in the evaporator coil where the liquid refrigerant is being boiled into a low-temperature low-pressure gas! I have a picture of the evaporator coil below. This is so amazing to me!

Above picture of an evaporator coil:

6. The evaporator coil gets really cold and our furnace or air handler’s blower blows our home’s unconditioned warm air across the evaporator coil where much of the heat and humidity is removed and we get that nice, fresh air-conditioned air! Thanks be to God on a hot, humid summer day!!

7. The cool gas in the evaporator is returned back to the compressor where the compressor takes the cool refrigerant gas and makes the gas into a high-temperature high-pressure gas where the refrigeration cycle starts all over again! This cycle continues on and on until your home is cool enough and the thermostat turns the AC or heat pump unit off. I hope this amazes you as much as it amazes me! If you have any questions please comment below or email us at support@arnoldservice.com

We would love to help you out and try to answer your questions!

 

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Problem: Please explain how to read air conditioner refrigeration gauges?

Problem: I would like to check the charge on my air conditioner or heat pump unit. I purchased some air conditioner freon refrigerant gauges, but have no idea what all the numbers pressures and temperatures mean. Please explain how to read the HVAC freon air conditioner gauges.  Please explain what all the numbers and temperatures mean?

Answer: I found a great YouTube video made by AC Service Tech LLC that describes how to read manifold air conditioner refrigeration gauges when using either R22 or 410A refrigerant. AC Service Tech explains what things affect the pressures on the low and high side gauges. If you have any questions please email us anytime. Support@arnoldservice.com

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How to Use a Multimeter to Troubleshoot HVAC Circuits

Problem: In troubleshooting heating and air conditioning problems it is very important to know how to use a multimeter.  I remember when I did not know how to use a multimeter and I would use the trial and error method for testing circuits! If the circuit breaker blew then I had it wired wrong. If the breaker held I was right! This, of course, was very dangerous and I do not want anyone to use this trial and error method! The trial and error method is very scary, to say the least!  It is a wonder that I did not burn the house down or get hurt from electrical shock! Many people do not know how to use a multimeter and I wanted to list this post and video that shows how to use a multimeter! Of course,  as we all know electricity (the flow of electrons in a conductor) can not be seen. We need to know how to use a multimeter and we need a good multimeter to be able to troubleshoot, find, and fix HVAC, automobile, and home electrical problems. 

Solution: Learn how to properly use a multimeter to troubleshoot heating and air conditioning equipment. We have a really good YouTube video made by Word of Advice TV that explains how to use a multimeter in detail. The Word of Advice Video explains what the multimeter is capable of doing and then shows how each of the functions of the multimeter are used in troubleshooting and testing a furnace. The video shows how to check resistance, voltage, continuity, capacitors, batteries micro-amps, and more! Thanks so very much to Word of Advice TV for making this excellent educational video!  We sell the same G2 Phoenix Pro multimeter that is used and shown in the video below on the following page: Please click here if you are interested in the Phoenix Pro Multimeter that we sell. 

It is unbelievable and awesome how many different tests and functions that you can do with a good multimeter! The most useful thing that I found with multimeters in troubleshooting is the ability to read electricity and amperage through an insulated wire! How can it do that? Just clamp around the outside of the wire and see how many amps are being used and see the flow of electricity! Awesome to say the least!  I hope this video helps you understand how to use a multimeter! If you have any questions please email us anytime or comment below. Our email address is support@arnoldservice.com

We Would Love to Help You Out and Earn Your Business!

 

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Why is it Important to Know Your HVAC System’s Static Pressure!

Problem: We had a person send us an email this week who had an 8-year-old heat pump compressor burn out. He wanted us to post on our site the importance of having your HVAC company check the static air pressure in your duct system. The company that installed the new heat pump unit said the reason the compressor burned out was that it was due to the lack of return air in the ductwork. Our customer said, “WOW… how many HVAC companies have worked on my unit>>> TOO DARN MANY… and NO ONE even said or checked my return air static pressure. Steve, make sure you tell people about how important is it to have their static pressure checked.”

Solution: If you are having a new HVAC system installed or if you are having airflow problems with your furnace, air conditioner or heat pump system then it is very important to have your HVAC company do a static air pressure test to make sure that your ductwork is sized correctly and you do not have restrictions in your furnace or ductwork that are causing airflow problems. This is why it is important to not have a furnace filter that is too restrictive to airflow. Static Pressure is like the blood pressure in your HVAC system’s duct work. We have two Youtube videos below that explain why it is important to know and test your HVAC system’s static air pressure. Thanks so very much to Eddie L for an excellent drawn-out explanation of what static pressure actually is and to Althoff Industries who explains and shows how to test static pressure! I hope that these videos help you understand the importance of having your HVAC System’s Static pressure tested.

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How Does My Electric Furnace Operate? How do I Troubleshoot Electric Furnace Problems?

Problem: I have a heat pump with electric auxiliary heat. I am interested in knowing how the electric heat strips operate and how to troubleshoot our electric furnace if I have a problem?

Answer: We have had several people ask us about electric furnaces and heat pumps that use electric heat strips for back up auxiliary heat. Most people want to know how the electric furnace operates and how to troubleshoot electric furnaces if there is a problem. I always recommend a good multimeter for testing. We can not see electricity so it is impossible to test electric circuits without a meter. We sell a really good multimeter made by Fieldcrest on the following page: Please click here if you would like to see a really nice multimeter that we sell.

Many times electric furnace problems can be attributed to burnt loose wires or a bad sequencer.  Please click here if you would like to see the sequencers that we sell.  Another common problem with electric furnaces are open fusible links. Please click here if you are interested in the fusible links that we sell.

We have two really good YouTube Videos made by AC Service Tech LLC , Craig Migliaccio that explains how to troubleshoot air handlers with electric heat strips. Mr. Migliaccio explains electric heat strips and components with how to read voltage, path and resistance. Thanks so very much to AC Service Tech LLC from making these two great Youtube Videos! If you would like to see more great HVAC Repair and troubleshooting videos then please click on the following link: All AC Service Tech Videos. If you have any questions please let me know by emailing us: support@arnoldservice.com  or comment below. I hope this will help you out in fixing your HVAC equipment! Steve Arnold

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