5 Factors Affecting the Cost of Buying and Installing a Sacramento HVAC Unit

professionalism in the workplace

Many people who face replacing an HVAC unit in Sacramento want to know just how much that project will cost them before they commit to that system’s replacement. Often times air conditioner replacement is not planned, it’s more of a sudden purchase in the heat of summer. So, even if you don’t plan on replacing anytime soon, this blog is still a great read. This article discusses some of the factors of the cost of buying and installing a Sacramento HVAC unit.

The Size of Your Home

An AC unit should be selected based on its suitability. Bigger homes will require bigger AC units because those bigger homes will have more air that needs to be conditioned. The bigger air conditioning units usually cost more to buy and install. You should, therefore, expect to spend more on purchasing an AC unit if you have moved to a bigger home. If your home’s Air conditioner is more than a decade old, the current AC may be undersized for your home. Often times with replacement you need to have your contractor look at the overall design of the ductwork (as detailed below) and the size and location of the unit for maximum efficiency.

The HVAC Equipment Brand Preferred

The purchase price of your new air conditioning unit will also be affected by the brand you opt for. Think about this price in relation to what would happen if you were to buy a car. A Porsche is likely to be more expensive than a Toyota even though they’re both cars.

Some brands of air conditioning units are reputed to be more reliable than others are. Such dependable brands may be more expensive than the little-known brands. It may be wiser for you to talk to a (Sacramento) heating and air technician for advice about the best brands to consider so that you widen your options and find something within your budget.

Your Home’s Complexity

The complexity of your home will also impact the cost of installing that new air conditioning system. For example, a home in which spray-on insulation was used makes it tougher on the installers since they will have to cut through the insulations. Similarly, historical homes take more time since the home is fragile.

The Sacramento HVAC installer will visit your home and survey it before estimating how much the installation project is likely to cost.

The Extra Features Selected

The specific features that you want your new HVAC system to have can affect the total cost of the system. For instance, individuals who wish to have multiple zones will have to pay for more hardware (zone dampers and thermostats, for example) than another homeowner who doesn’t want to have air conditioning zones in the home.

However, you should not shy away from getting some of the extra features. If those features will increase the comfort level and result in lower long-term maintenance costs it is worth it. The higher upfront cost will be justified by the lower ongoing costs that you incur if you have the latest additional features on the market.

The Condition of the Ductwork

It would be wasteful to acquire an efficient AC unit and then link it to defective ductwork. In fact, many jurisdictions have mandatory inspections in case a new AC unit is being installed.

Any leaks and worn ductwork components will increase the installation cost. Since those issues will have to be attended to before the new air conditioning unit is commissioned for use in your home.

An air conditioning unit should be selected based on the location and home where that unit will be installed. Never undertake such a task on your own. Hire an air conditioning replacement professional like Fox Family Heating and Air and let us recommend the best unit for your needs.

Four Reasons Why Your AC Circuit Breaker Keeps Tripping

circuit breaker tripping

Why Does My Air Conditioner’s Circuit Breaker Keep Tripping?

Have you had an issue with your air conditioner lately where the circuit breaker at the main panel keeps tripping?  Have you gone over to the side of the house and tried to flip that breaker back on only to have it flip right back off?  In this blog, I’ll go over what could be going wrong with your AC system when this happens.

It’s not fun to come home and realize that your house, which should be a cool 75 degrees right now, is sitting at a balmy 85 degrees.  So, you go over to the side of your house and open the main electrical panel.  There you find the air conditioner circuit breaker tripped.  This means no high voltage power is getting to your AC to let it run.  Not cool.

You flip the breaker back to the on position only to have it trip again either immediately or after a few minutes or even seconds.  Now what?  So you call your local AC guy.  He comes out the next day.  Now that the system has been sitting idle for several hours, it doesn’t surprise me when the technician who comes over for a $ 100-weekend service call flips the switch on the breaker, and the system starts working again.  Hey! Someone’s got the magic touch!

You pay the smart technician the diagnostic fee, and they head out to their next call.  Meanwhile, after 30 minutes of the system running fine, the breaker trips again.  The technician is long gone, and likely can’t be back to fix it until Monday when they re-open.

How Do You Know What’s Going on with the Circuit Breaker?

If the breaker repeatedly trips after a while, there’s a problem with one of the parts inside the AC.  If the breaker trips immediately after turning it back on, there something going in the wiring.

You can’t just flip the breaker back on and hope it stays that way.  It might! But most likely, there is a reason it tripped, and that problem will come back around.  When this comes up with my technicians at Fox Family, I tell them to slow down and ask themselves, WHY did the breaker trip?  Sure, the breaker reset when you flipped it back on, but a technician finds out why it tripped.

Danger!

I want to reiterate that I’m only giving homeowners and technicians some reasons why the breaker may be tripping.  Working with high voltage can cause severe injury and even death to even the most experienced technicians.  I read about it all the time in the mechanical chat groups I’m in.

Why Do Breakers Trip?

A breaker trips when there is too much power consumption or current at any given time.  The wire from the AC to the panel heats up enough that it trips.  This stops a potentially hazardous situation from happening.  Here are some reasons your AC will cause circuit breaker tripping:

  1. The breaker could be bad
  2. The compressor or fan is drawing too many amps
  3. A short circuit
  4. Refrigerant pressure issues

The Breaker Could Be Bad

This doesn’t happen a lot.  Breakers are sturdy switches that, when heated up enough that they’re repeatedly tripping, can become weaker and trip more easily.  A new breaker can fix this problem.

The Compressor or Fan is Tripping the Circuit Breaker By Drawing Too Many Amps

Although I can’t cover every situation that might happen, I can give you a couple of common scenarios.  If a motor gets stuck and can’t turn over when the proper voltage is applied, the motor will pull a higher number of amps.  So much so that the heat builds up in the wiring and trips the breaker.  This won’t trip the breaker immediately.  But after a while (and there is no specified amount of time), the breaker can trip whenever the thermostat is calling for the AC to be on.

At the start of the cooling season, this pattern often happens with the compressor, that black cylinder at the bottom of your outdoor unit.  It pumps the refrigerant back and forth through the copper lines, much like the heart does in the body.

Assuming the capacitor is good, sometimes adding a hard-start capacitor to the circuit will help give it that boost needed to turn the motor over.  If it does, count your blessings and start saving up for a new compressor or AC unit altogether.  It’s running on borrowed time. It’s just a matter of time before your AC gives out.

A Short Circuit

Another reason for a circuit breaker to trip is because of an electrical short.  When two normally sheathed wires like a hot wire and a neutral wire touch each other when voltage is applied, it causes a major event.

The AC uses 240 volts.  This means the two or three wires leading to your motor carry at least 120 volts.  A third one can carry even more.  If two bare wires touch each other when the system is supposed to be on, a high current situation can occur, causing the breaker to trip.  As soon as the voltage is applied, the breaker will trip immediately.

Touching Wires

Another way the breaker will trip immediately is if one of the motor’s wires touch the inside wall of the compressor.  Remember, these motors have windings inside of them that help spin the motor shaft.  The windings are covered with sheathing to protect the wiring.  But it still happens, especially on older systems that have been running for ten to 20 years or longer.

Check below for a link to my video that talks about how to diagnose a bad compressor.

Refrigerant Pressure Issues

One last reason a compressor could trip the AC breaker is refrigerant pressure.  If the pressure is too high in the system, meaning there is too much refrigerant, the compressor is once again having to strain too hard to do its work.  The breaker won’t trip immediately, but over time.

This scenario doesn’t happen as often as the other events above but can look like a bad compressor. Removing a pound of refrigerant will tell you if it’s a pressure issue because you’ll see both sides of your gauges go down a little.  If this happens and the temperature split stays between 18 and 22 degrees, I would try removing refrigerant until you get the compressor amps to get back down to below the RLA, and the temp split stays within range.

Starting Over

If removing the refrigerant isn’t working as well as you’d like, it might be smart to tell the customer you’d like to remove all the refrigerant and start over with virgin refrigerant and a factory charge.  You don’t know this system’s history, and you’re not expected to, especially if the homeowner doesn’t know it or have invoices showing what previous techs have done to repair the AC in the past. It’s a fair solution for both of you.  If you do this and the compressor is still pulling high amps, and you’ve checked everything else on the system, you have a bad compressor.

Summary

These are just a few reasons why the circuit breaker in your home could trip the breaker in the main electrical panel.  If it trips immediately after turning it back on, you likely have a problem in the wiring.  If your breaker trips after a certain amount of time, something is going on with a part in the AC system.

Let a Professional Do the Fixing

I can’t tell you anybody can fix these problems by themselves.  In fact, you might not even be able to order the parts you need as it takes a licensed contractor to purchase them from a local distributor.  Let a professional come out and diagnose the exact problem and then fix the system so you can have peace of mind.

Thanks so much for stopping by and we’ll see you next time.

Don’t miss my videos about or related to this topic:

How I Add Refrigerant to a Central Air Conditioner

How I add refrigerant

How I add refrigerant

Hey HVAC techs! I’m Greg Fox, and today we’re going to talk about adding more refrigerant to an air conditioner.  I wanted to expand on our recent AC troubleshooting series by going into each part of its sequence of operations.  This week, it’s the refrigerant.

Now, I’m not going to get into the legalities and moral issues here of refilling refrigerant on a system that is leaking, but you should know a few things:

  • Refrigerant is expensive for the customer – If you have to keep refilling their refrigerant, which we do not know how often that will be, it can add up quickly.
  • They know their air conditioner better than us.  If we’ve never been to their home to refill their refrigerant before, there’s no reference for knowing how BIG their refrigerant leak is or WHERE the leak is.
  • The customer could lose all of their refrigerant tomorrow if they have a significant leak… or if it is a small leak, the refrigerant could last them all year or longer.   

Let’s go over some basics to charging an air conditioner on your average 90-degree day in the middle of summer.  Upon arrival at the house, your customer tells you the air conditioner worked just fine last year, but this year the system seems to run non-stop, especially as the summer days get hotter and hotter.  You ask the customer, “Have any other technicians been out to make repairs on your system since last year?” It’s very likely the customer will say no.  

There’s a lot of things that can affect the refrigerant charge.  Just remember, for the sake of time, we’re keeping this dialogue short, so we can get to the point of charging the system up.  

I like what Bryan Orr mentioned in an article I read.  He said,

“We need to set up equipment so that it won’t freeze during normal operating conditions.   At the very least, the typical residential A/C system should be set up so that the return air temp can get all the way down to 68° and still be just above freezing at the evaporator coil.

Let’s say it’s 78° in a house on an R410a system, and your suction pressure is 108 PSI.  That means your suction saturation (coil temperature) is 35°… so the coil won’t freeze.

However, the coil temperature will drop approximately 1° for every degree the return temperature drops. 

Remember, at 78° inside, the evap coil was at 35°, So if the customer sets it down to 74°, the saturation would get down to 31°, and the will start to freeze.

Knowing this, let’s grab your temperature probe and check the return air and the supply air.  Here you notice the difference between the two is about 8 degrees.  As a tech, you know the split should be around 18 to 22 degrees.  

Next, you head outside and feel the suction line to see if it’s cold. Now, there is some validity to the old term, “beer can cold” but it should not be the measure you go by to check the refrigerant charge. It can, however, give you a clue as to the condition of the system.  In this case, the suction line at the AC is barely cold.  Now, I’m not always a huge proponent of hooking my gauges up to a system every time I go out to diagnose a system, but in this case, we can tell something’s not right with the cooling system, so in this case, I want to see what is going on inside of it.

Hook your hoses up to the liquid and suction lines.  Be careful of blowback so you don’t freeze your hands.  Follow all safety precautions. 

Now, what do you see on your suction side?  I like my techs to talk to me about the evaporator coil’s TEMPERATURE and the TEMPERATURE of the condenser coil.  When I’m on the phone trying to help a tech out in the field, it’s hard for me to remember all the pressure-temperature ratios between the different refrigerants we use. 

So if someone tells me the evaporator coil is 40 degrees, I can immediately tell the coil is not freezing.  If someone tells me the temperature of the condenser coil is 140 degrees, I can immediately translate that to an outdoor coil that is under some seriously high pressure.

On the refrigerant gauge, the outer circle and those numbers are the pressures.  The inner rings of numbers reflect the temperature.  This is how I want my techs to communicate pressures to each other. It’s more efficient this way.  Most gauges these days have a green ring for R22 and a pink ring for R410.  The pink ring’s numbers are what we are using for evap and condenser coil temperatures on a 410 system.

Here we see that the evaporator coil is at about 20° F.  For proper refrigerant levels, the image I want you to project in your mind is this.  Our end-goal here is to have liquid refrigerant reach all the way to the TXV at the evaporator coil to meter the refrigerant appropriately.  Right now, there’s not enough liquid in the system to do that.  This means vapor is making its way to the metering device, and we’re not giving the coil enough refrigerant to interact with the speed of the blower air moving across it.

We need the perfect balance of airflow and refrigerant pressures to create that 18 to 22-degree temperature split we are looking for.

Let’s suppose this system holds 10lbs or R-410a.  In my mind, I’m thinking the system is about halfway charged. It’s an approximation, but we have to let the customer know about how many pounds we want to add, so they give you the okay to move forward.  Of course, you don’t know for sure, but they should be aware it could be around 5 lbs, and that will cost (whatever, $100 a pound). We need to let them know it could be a couple of pounds more or a couple of pounds less, but either way, we need permission to move forward.

Using a scale is the only way we can know for sure how many pounds of refrigerant we are adding. And it’s cool to let the customer know you’ll be using this too. It’s reassuring to them. This is great for preventing you from overcharging the system too.

My service hoses are already hooked up.  I’m going to start by putting my charging hose on the tank of refrigerant.  Next, I open the refrigerant tank valve and place it upside down on the scale. With the gauges closed on the manifold, I crack open the connection where the charging hose meets the manifold.  Not too much, though.  We just want the refrigerant to prime itself up to that point so we get rid of excess moisture and air in the hoses.

Reset the scale back to zero, so we know how much we are adding as the refrigerant enters the system.

I recommend you put an amp clamp on one of the wires leading to the compressor.  If you’ve seen my video on diagnosing a bad compressor, you know that the compressor’s amp draw correlates with the refrigerant pressures inside the system.  The healthiest compressors will run at around 60 percent of their RLA.  When you’re charging up the system, you’ll see the amp draws fluctuate as the refrigerant goes in and settles down.  Use your knowledge about the compressor amp draws to monitor your charging process.

Okay! We’re ready to charge!  With the charging hose valve open, we’ll start opening the suction side valve.  A quarter to half of a turn is enough.  There is no approximate amount of time it’ll take to insert 1 lb. of refrigerant.  Each situation is different.  To know for sure, use your scale.  

In this situation where we think the system is about 4 or 5 lbs low, let about 2 lbs flow into the system and wait for 5 to 10 minutes for the system to equalize.  Question.  How long does it take for the refrigerant to cycle through a typical residential split system? I’d say about 3 or 4 minutes.  If you have a different answer, let me know in the comments.

So we see now the low side has come up to about 27 degrees or 92 psi.  Our evaporator coil is still freezing.  Let’s add two more pounds and wait.  I know there’s a lot of pressure on techs to get their calls done quickly so they can get to the next one, but it’s essential to let the system stabilize before adding more refrigerant.  If you add too much, too soon, you could see the pressures skyrocket insanely fast.  And now you have to recover some refrigerant into a separate tank which takes even more time!

Now we are getting close to 32 degrees or about 100 psi on the suction side.  From here, we want to start dialing our subcool to whatever it is the manufacturer recommends.  This system says 10 degrees subcooling on a 95-degree day.  Let’s get a temperature probe on the liquid line and start getting our reading from it. We’re going to be subtracting the high side’s temperature and the liquid line’s temperature to come up with our subcooling.  

Add refrigerant a little at a time until the difference between those two numbers is 10 degrees. There’s nothing tricky about this.  Just don’t add too much too fast.  Add refrigerant and wait for the numbers to stabilize. 

You’re going to be looking for the low side pressure to be around 40 to 42 degrees or 125 psi.  The high side pressure/temperature will likely settle around 15 degrees above the outdoor temperature.  So on a 90-degree day, you may end up with a high side temperature around 105 degrees.  If you can get your numbers around this area, you’re close!  But let’s really get it dialed in.  Get that subcool to 10, plus or minus 2 degrees.

I will tell you; it takes longer to move the needle on your gauges when there’s less refrigerant in the system.  As the system starts getting close to the proper subcool, you’ll want to finesse the time you keep the manifold open, allowing refrigerant into the system.  Overcharging can happen quickly, especially on a hot day.  

Getting close to your 10 degrees subcool?  Cool!

Once you get it to this point, check your temperature split inside.  Is it around 18 to 22 degrees?  Great! You’ll notice the liquid line is a little bit warmer than the outdoor temperature.  Also, the suction line will be damn near “beer can cold!”

Test the system while it’s running.  Get your amp draws on the condenser fan motor and compressor.  Cycle the system on and off at the thermostat to make sure the system is operating correctly.  If it is, you’re good to go.

Well, I hope this has helped you when it comes to the charging process.  I make my videos for my technicians to reference when they are in a bind out in the field.  But if this can help anyone else, that’s great.

Thanks so much for reading, and we’ll see you on the next blog.

https://youtu.be/plTCLJF_zQk
 
 

How Moisture in the Refrigerant Lines Damages Compressors

How Moisture in the Refrigerant Lines Damages Compressors

Anytime technicians cut open the refrigerant lines to the air conditioning or heat pump system, we have to ensure the interior of those lines doesn’t get debris and other contaminants in them.  We can’t prevent air and moisture from getting in them, which is why we need to evacuate systems thoroughly.  If we don’t, a form of acid will develop inside the compressor and eat away at the protective lining that surrounds the copper stator windings.

Not only will the acid wear out the windings, but it can tear away the copper lining of the tubing itself.  That copper will land on the bearings or other components in the refrigeration circuit.  Other examples would be the TXV or other metering devices.  Once this starts, friction starts building up, causing the compressor to work harder to do the same work.  Over time, the friction builds up so much the compressor seizes or burns out. 
 

 

Moisture and POE Oil

 

R-410A systems use Polyol ester oil (POE Oil) which is a hygroscopic oil. POE oil retains water in the air a lot more than the mineral oil (R22) systems.  That’s why we have to evacuate the system of as much moisture as possible.  Technically, we’re not supposed to leave the lines open for more than 15 minutes.  That’s hard to do when replacing a major component like a compressor or evaporator coil.  If exposed long enough, it’s best to replace the compressor oil to the levels printed on the data label on the side of the compressor.   This is because no matter how long we have the unit on a vacuum, that moisture will never be removed from the compressor oil.

 

When a system is flat on charge, meaning there is no refrigerant left in the system because it all leaked out,   it can be assumed that air is now in the system.  There’s no vacuum left in the lines, so the leak needs to be repaired and then evacuated to 500 microns or less again to get it back to normal.  Does this mean if the system is flat, the lines have been open longer than 15 minutes?  I would assume so.  Should we change the oil in the compressor?  I guess so.  Do any techs do it?  Probably not.

 

 

Filter driers catch remaining moisture

 

Because it’s so hard to get all the moisture in the lines evacuated, we always install a filter drier.  A good filter drier has desiccants inside it that will absorb residual moisture in the lines as it flows through the system.  Even then, only so much moisture can be absorbed by a filter drier.  A clogged filter drier will start restricting the normal refrigerant flow and even cause flash gas causing abnormal operation.  You can tell if a filter drier is clogged by measuring the temperature of the liquid line before and after the filter drier.  If the difference is 3 degrees or more, changed the filter with a new and properly sized one.

 

It’s so important for technicians to ensure there is no moisture from the atmosphere left in the lines when we turn the system on.  There are tools, components, and procedures to help with this. If we don’t do it right, we are only doing a disservice to the customer because the electrical and mechanical parts of the AC system will eat away from acid that forms inside of it.  

 

Professional, knowledgeable service is essential when it comes to the air conditioner.  Don’t just call anyone out to service your system.  Call Fox Family or even book online  at the top of the page.

That’s it for this week.  Check us out on the next blog!

The HVAC Industry Continues to Experience the Effects of COVID-19

HVAC and covid 19 Featured image

HVAC Supply Pricing Continuing To Rise

Folks who purchased their new AC system at the beginning of the year should be singing their praises.  The industry continues to see rising costs of materials combined with a shortage of workers.  

A colleague of mine said, “When something like COVID interrupts any part of the supply chain system, including how those parts get shipped from there to here. We’re experiencing a weird dynamic right now with worldwide stress, but also with a high demand for our products and services. Also, considering the low numbers of employees working in these factories, the only thing to expect is chaos. The scenario is creating an almost panic for our industry to perform.”

Halfway through the summer of 2021, things haven’t gotten any better.  We continue to be frustrated.  Selling equipment is tough enough, but to get the okay from a customer and potentially not have their equipment is challenging.  It’s the toughest thing I’ve had to deal with since becoming a contractor in 2015.

What happens is, when we order our equipment online in the past, we could see the inventory levels of our distributor.  We would look up a particular furnace that matches up with a condenser and evaporator coil and see that they had 20 of those furnaces.  Now when we win a job, we have to submit the order and wait for the distributor to get back to us and let us know if they have the equipment to fill that order.  If they don’t, we have to call the customer back and let them know.

On a few occasions this year, we have had to offer the customer an entirely different brand than Trane, which has always been our equipment of choice.  This has worked out for those customers, and we appreciate them being flexible enough to understand.  

Every HVAC contractor in the United States is dealing with this equipment situation.  Manufacturers say they can’t get equipment out fast enough for the rising demand for new equipment.  This has created the highest rate of price increase we’ve seen in a very long time.  Each year, we typically see a 4% to 6% increase in the cost of equipment.  

attic furnace unit

This year we’ve already seen a 21% increase in that same equipment. This has resulted in your basic $10,000 HVAC system increasing by $2,000 in just one year.  Higher-end equipment has grown exponentially.

With a few to several more months of rapid inflation in the world’s economy, we continue to brace for whatever price increases we may see. These price increases ultimately get passed along to our customers. 

So, like we said this time last year, as we’re getting close to the end of the hottest time of the year, local suppliers should have an easier time restocking their shelves as demand goes down.  Winter months are relatively mild around the Sacramento Valley, so that we won’t get that high intensity of equipment change-outs experienced in other areas of the world with longer, colder winters.

Let’s keep our fingers crossed America get’s back to normal soon.  People need heating and air conditioning. It’s not a luxury for some people.  With continued demand and lower inventory of equipment and the parts that make that equipment up, inflation continues, stressing this contractor out.  

Stay safe and follow CDC guidelines so we can get through this sooner than later. Thanks so much for stopping by, and we’ll see you next time.

How I Troubleshoot a PSC Condenser Fan Motor on an Air Conditioner

Condenser fan motor

Condenser fan motors come in a couple of forms.  PSC style and ECM style.  PSC motors are easily identified by the run capacitor that comes inside the service panel with them.  ECM motors are electronically commutated motors run on their own power.  Today we’re talking about the PSC condenser fan motor which you’ll find on a lot of the basic 10 to 14 SEER single-stage systems out there. 

There are only a few things that can go wrong with your typical PSC motor.  Voltage from the panel isn’t sufficient, the contactor is bad, the capacitor is bad, or damaged parts inside the condenser fan motor.

Why Is The AC Making A High Pitched Noise?

I’ve gotten this call before.  The customer says the outdoor unit is making a very pitched noise.  Louder than they’ve ever heard!  When you get to the house and turn on the AC, you walk up on the outdoor AC unit and find that the compressor is pumping the refrigerant, but the fan on top is not spinning.

What’s happening here is the condenser fan blade isn’t spinning which normally removes the heat from the outdoor unit.  If it doesn’t, the compressor will overheat and shut down, but not before putting up a screaming hissy-fit.  After that, the internal overload switch on the compressor opens.  It takes about 45 minutes or so to cool back down, and then retry running again.  Heats up, shuts down, cools off, restarts, and over and over.

In this case, you likely have good voltage to the system but just to be sure make sure you have about 240 volts to the load side of the contactor while it’s running.  This lets you know the line voltage is good and the contactor is good in one quick test with your multimeter.

You only have so much time to do this before the compressor shuts down, but next, I usually take a stick or something and try spinning the fan blade with it.  If the fan starts spinning after giving it a little nudge, I’d check the capacitor next.  That capacitor is what helps it start and run efficiently.

If the capacitor checks out good, then you know you have proper voltage getting to the motor, so the condenser fan motor is bad.

If the fan blade doesn’t keep spinning after you nudge it, the capacitor could be good, but still, check it.  If it’s good, the condenser fan motor is bad.

Checking The Condenser Fan

I’ve seen this happen when a big windstorm hit an area recently and knocked some branches down into the top of the AC.  The shroud on top usually does a great job of protecting the fan blade, but in this instance, a stick wedged itself in there and caused the motor to burn out.

Another reason this can happen, especially on universal replacements is the inside of the motor got wet.  These motors come with rubber plugs sometimes.  These plugs have to be placed on the top side of a downward mounted fan, and in the bottom of an upward facing motor.  The ports on the opposite sides should remain open, so that any moisture that does get into it, can drain out.  Happens all the time!

I would say check the fan motor for a short to ground, but the main breaker or service disconnect fuses would have usually tripped by now.  So let’s check the motor windings first to see if we have an open or damaged winding.

Take the wires off the contactor and the capacitor that leads to the fan motor.  Refer to your wiring diagram that comes with the AC and check your ohms (resistance) between Common (Purple or C on the capacitor) and Start (Usually Brown but was attached to Fan on the capacitor.)  You should read a fairly low amount of resistance here.  If you read OL on your meter, then you have an open Start winding

Common and Run (Black, or the only wire that’s coming from the contactor to the fan motor.)  You’ll likely measure a lower amount of resistance here.  If it’s OL, then you have an open Run winding.

If you have an OL on both of the motor’s windings, the motor’s internal overload switch could be open.  If you allow time for it to cool down, and it still wont run, replace the condenser fan motor.

Just in case you do have good windings, let’s double check to make sure the motor isn’t shorted to ground.  You can check with your ohm meter, but I usually just use the continuity setting on my meter.  Check between the frame of the motor and each winding.  Common, Start, and Run.  Make sure you’re not using a painted surface for the frame.  You want to use a metallic base for this test.

Condenser motor

If you have continuity between any of these and the frame of the motor, replace the condenser fan motor.

Well, I hope this helps you troubleshoot your next condenser fan motor.  This is one of the easier components to check.

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Thanks so much for reading and we’ll see you on the next blog.

How cold can my air conditioning get my house in the summer?

How cold can my house get?

 

HVAC companies like ours startup because we are passionate about helping people when it gets hot (or cold) outside.  We honestly want to get you comfortable as soon as your AC breaks down.  Some people want their home to feel like a meat locker, but the reality is your system can only get your home so cool.

Your system is designed to cool your house 18 to 22 degrees less than the temperature of the house at any given time.  Meaning, if your house is currently 80 degrees, the temperature of the air coming out of your registers should be 62 to 58 degrees.  As the temperature of the house comes down to your desired 72 degrees, the temps coming from the supply registers will be 54 to 50 degrees.  

Your house can get cooler than that. Most of the time, I sleep with the temperature in my bedroom at 68 degrees.  I can only do that if I strategically set my thermostat not to let my house get too warm during the day.  If you let your house get to warm, say 85 to 90 degrees, before turning your system on, your AC will struggle to bring the temps in your home to 72 degrees or less.  

A system is designed to cool your house one or two degrees every 15 minutes.  But if it’s super-hot in your home, the walls are going to be warm, the furniture is warm, and the ceiling is warm.  All the items in your house will need to cool down before you’re going to start feeling comfortable again.  So if it’s 90 degrees in your home before you decide to turn your AC on, it may have to run all through the night, even into the following day to get you there, depending on the age of your HVAC system.

So, the answer to the question is about 72 degrees.  75 is reasonable for every home, but some systems are old and inefficient.  Some systems aren’t sized large enough for that particular home.  Every house is different. Some systems might be low on refrigerant.  It could be a variety of things.  

One thing is for sure though, if you live in the Sacramento area, Fox Family Heating & Air will be able to get your home nice and cool no matter what’s going on with your AC.  Feel free to schedule an appointment with us at (916) 877-1577 or online at www.foxfamilyhvac.com

Capacitors and Your HVAC System

CAPACITOR REPLACEMENT

As we approach the long hot summer, I wanted to start a series of blogs on common parts of your HVAC system that break down. I also want to share some other common parts that when installed or added on to your system will keep your family and house safer, your system running longer and more efficiently, and improve the indoor air quality so everyone in your home can breathe easier.

If your air conditioner or heater is making a buzzing or humming noise, it’s a sign that your capacitor levels are low.  They can’t provide the necessary electricity to make the HVAC system work properly.

Many times each year, I am called out to a house where the system is making a buzzing or humming noise. This makes me immediately think a motor is stuck or the capacitor for that motor has gone bad. A capacitor is a storage bucket of electrons that helps regulate the electricity going to the motor it supports; a compressor, a condenser fan motor, a furnace or air handler’s blower motor, and sometimes and inducer motor. When the capacitor gets low on charge, three things can happen. The motor can run at higher amps, causing the motor to prematurely burn out. The motor can begin to run backward.  This can cause a lot to go wrong on your AC or heating system. Lastly, the motor can just stop running altogether.

Fox Family Heating and Air can help keep an eye on your capacitor levels during our bi-annual precision tune-ups.

People ask me all the time, “How long is a capacitor supposed to last? A capacitor usually lasts five to ten years.  If you saw some of the 20 and 25-year-old capacitors found in old GE systems, you’d find them still working. There is a specifically sized capacitor for your system. It comes from the factory at that specific charge of electrons in it. The label on the capacitor will specify when that capacitor is considered below factory specs. Sometimes it’s 5%, 6% or 10%. Well, this capacitor is constantly giving itself up for the motor it supports. As your capacitor loses power little by little every year, it will finally reach its factory low point. At that point, it’s time to change your capacitor.

Changing the capacitor when it is needed will help extend the life of your heating and air conditioning system. Fox Family Heating and Air Conditioning can help keep an eye on your capacitor levels by checking them out during our bi-annual precision tune-ups. Regular maintenance on your air conditioning system will not only reduce emergency service calls at the most crucial times of the year but will give you peace of mind knowing your system has been checked by a professional twice a year.

Please call Greg Fox at Fox Family Heating and Air Conditioning to schedule your Precision Tune-up and see how your capacitors are performing at 916-877-1577.

One more thing:  don’t forget to change your filter every two months!

11 Ways to Avoid Hot and Cold Spots in Your Home

Delivering the right amount of air to each room at the same time is key to being comfortable.  And not just in one or two rooms.  A properly set up HVAC system will comfort your whole home or business simultaneously.

Of course, the goal is to have the same even temperatures throughout each room so when you walk through your house, you don’t feel warmer in one room than another.  Today at Fox Family Heating and Air, we’re taking a look at 11 ways to avoid hot and cold spots in your Sacramento Valley home or business.

1. Is your system sized correctly?

First and foremost, is your system sized correctly?  This means the original installer of the system did a proper load calculation of your home.  If they didn’t, then it’s not pushing enough air to your rooms regardless of whether the rest of our checklist is perfect.

2. Return air and supply air unity

Having the right amount of return air to supply air unity means you’ll be delivering the same amount of air out of your system as you are bringing to the system.  You have a return air grille or stand where your filter goes.  That’s where the system draws its air in.  On the other side of that air handler, the system supplies your conditioned air.  Systems are designed to supply about 400 to 500 cfms of air per ton.  But if your system is breathing in enough air from the return, how is it going to supply enough air to keep your home evenly comforted?

3. Adding returns will mix hot and cold air

This brings me to the option of adding more returns to strategic rooms around your house.  That return air grille in the main hallway doesn’t have to be the only return in the home or office.  For example, master bedrooms in newer homes have a return air grille installed in them.  This mixes the air in the room so warm air in the summer gets removed from the room, while colder supply air is being delivered into the room.  You’ll really notice a difference by adding a return to these pesky rooms that are warmer or cooler than others, depending on the season.

4. Closing air registers will force hot and cold air elsewhere

Not one of my favorites, but some folks will start closing down their adjustable supply registers in various room that get too much air.  They’re hoping to force the air somewhere else in the house that isn’t getting enough air.  The only thing I don’t like about this is that those registers that you start shutting down can do a couple things.  One is really annoying and the other can actually shorten the lifespan of the system.  Closing down “strategic” registers in the home or office can make those registers start whizzing.  This makes it louder in that room because we are creating a restriction that speeds up the airflow as it leaves the supply register.

The other reason has to do with the static pressure of the system.  Much like blood flow in the body, we wouldn’t want to pinch a blood vessel in hopes to deliver more blood elsewhere right, this could cause big problems with the body.  The same goes for aerodynamics in your ductwork.

5. Change those filters to eliminate hot and cold spots

Changing your filters quarterly will not only help keep your system clean, but it will allow airflow into the system.  If the filter gets too dirty, you’re creating a restriction if the system can’t breathe in properly, it won’t be able to breathe out the appropriate amount of air.  It’s like breathing in through a straw and exhaling out of your open mouth.  Eventually you’re going to hyperventilate.  So, let’s keep those passages open so the HVAC system can eliminate hot and cold spots in your home or office.

6. Keep Heat at Bay with Window Coverings

The sun’s radiant energy can warm up a room quickly.  A room with sun-drenched walls or windows allow this heat into those rooms and will warm up more quickly.  Installing window coverings will keep this radiant heat at bay.  These come in the form of screens or tinting that can be attached to the outside of windows, or curtains and blinds affixed to the inside of the windows.  Either way you choose, you’re going to enjoy having a more comfortable room if you can reduce the chance of that heat coming in this way.

7. Electronics in Rooms will Increase Warmth

It’s so popular now to have gaming systems or high-tech computer systems in a room or office.  The heat these devices put out is enough to warm up a room, making it less comfortable than other rooms in your house.  Adding more supply air by using a larger duct will help to deliver more air to that room.  Just like I mentioned above, a better solution may be adding a return to this room as it will remove the warm air while cold air is being supplied to the room.  This will make your room more comfortable, faster.

8. Ceiling Fans will Mix Hot and Cold Air

Another way to mix the air in your room is to turn on that ceiling fan.  When it’s hot outside, have the fan blowing straight down towards the floor.  The warmer it is, the higher the fan speed should be.  Conversely, in the wintertime, turn the fan so it blows upwards.  Both ways will mix the air more effectively and make those rooms more evenly comforted.

9. Keep Hot and Cold Air Moving by Preventing Airflow Restrictions

Remove hot and cold air spots by taking a look at your ductwork.  It might be under the house or in the attic.  If you can see your ductwork, you will be able to determine if it’s delivering the air efficiently.  If the ductwork is sagging or kinked, it won’t deliver the air properly.  Each duct has a finite amount of air it can deliver appropriately.  Making sure it is installed correctly is a great way to keep your house evenly conditioned.

10. Prevent Hot and Cold Spots by Checking Insulation Levels

You can also control hot and cold spots by paying attention to insulation.  Attic insulations levels can greatly impact how quickly that hot or cold air infiltrates through the ceiling into your room.  Sometimes various service professionals will need to work up there.  In the process, they may matte down some of your insulation, making it less effective.  If there is not enough insulation over one room or the other, this will create hot or cold spots.  These reduce your comfort level in those rooms.  By blowing in some more insulation, you can make your whole house more comfortable to be in.

11. Properly Sized Ductwork Improves HVAC Efficiency

The size of your HVAC system as well as the right size duct system to deliver that air evenly are both crucial to your comfort.  This isn’t the easiest thing to figure for most DIY’ers.  An hvac professional can help you determine what size duct is needed for each room.  A system of supply and return ducts running every which way can be confusing.  Making the right decisions with your ductwork will make your HVAC system more efficient and comfortable for your home.  This will eliminate hot and cold spots in your home

Summary

Let Fox Family come out and take a look at what can be done to make your home more comfortable if you’re experiencing hot or cold spots.  Making your system as efficient and effective as possible will certainly add to your quality of life.

Thanks so much for stopping by, and we’ll see you on the next blog post!

Don’t miss our videos on related topics:

How To Protect an Air Conditioner Low Voltage Wire

How to Repair An Air Conditioner

Protecting the Low Voltage Wires to the AC

That brown-sheathed, low voltage wire from the air handler to the AC unit outside tells the contractor when to engage. This allows the high voltage to pass from one side of the contractor to the other, flowing on to the compressor and condenser fan motor.  Without this low 24 volt communication, the AC won’t start.  So, shouldn’t we protect those low voltages wires to the AC from potential damage and UV rays?  Doesn’t the electrical code    require some sort of conduit with wiring outside the house?  That’s what we’re going to talk about today on Fox Family Heating, Air Conditioning and Solar.

Ratings for Low Voltage Wire

I’ve never heard of any low voltage wire that’s rated for outdoors, including wet or damp conditions being used in residential heating and air conditioning.  When I service equipment and go on HVAC inspections around the Sacramento area, why do I find dried up, brittle sections of thermostat wire?  They’re simply taped to the suction line from the wall to the AC.

I spent hours researching this online. I’m having the hardest time finding the appropriate citation in the National or California Electrical Code.  The citation in question describes when to protect the low voltage wire in outdoor conditions, such as with an air conditioner installation.  If you ARE aware of the part of the book that talks about this topic, please let me know in the comments section down below.  As always, I admit, I don’t know all the answers, but I’d really like to know if you wouldn’t mind sharing.

What the Code Says

Article 725 of the National Electrical Code talks about this type of control wiring.  But I can’t find anything stating that Class 2 wire (as in the 24 volt thermostat wire used in residential HVAC) must be protected by or enclosed in conduit.

On one hand, the stat wire is not rated for outdoor use, let alone in wet or damp conditions which leaves it exposed to damaging elements.  Possible hazards are endless.  Landscapers who use weed eaters, a dog’s incessant need to chew up things in the yard, the ultraviolet rays coming from the sun, the list is long.

On the other hand, installing stat wire inside the liquid-tight conduit really doesn’t make it a dry environment either.  A dry environment isn’t even needed for class 2 wiring anyway, according to what I’ve found (and not found) in my research.

Protecting the Low Voltage AC Wire

Ever since my first HVAC installation, protecting the stat wire with ½” seal-tight conduit was a must.  My foreman insisted, so I’ve always taught my techs to do the same.  It undeniably protects the wire better than just strapping it to the suction line without seal-tight, exposed to the elements.  Ensuring stat wire lasts as long as the AC is also in the best interest of the customer.

If the stat wire dries up and becomes dry and brittle, it takes almost nothing to expose the bare wire within the sheathing.  This can result in the wrong wires touching each other. This shorts out the low voltage system, rendering it inoperable.  This requires the homeowner to call a service technician to come out to troubleshoot and fix the issue.

But it’s not in the code books.  So when I see newly built residential neighborhoods with exposed stat wire at the AC, I cringe.  But I have to remind myself it’s not actually required.

The Tightest Provision Gets Enforced

If it’s not required, why do so many inspectors write up correction letters to us for not protecting the stat wire with some sort of conduit?  The answer may be, “that’s the way they want it.”  Remember, local jurisdictions can tighten the rules as they deem necessary.  And the tightest provision of any code is the one that gets enforced.

If you really wanted to push the issue, you could ask the code inspector (nicely) where you could find the source of their local rules; one that lists their requirements which are more restrictive than the National Electric Code.

I get that there ARE several sections in the code book that say wiring must be protected from potential damage.  But it never mentions it specifically when it comes to Class 2 control wiring.

A Wiring Upgrade

Consider what it would take to better protect your customer’s low voltage wiring to the AC.  It doesn’t require too much work.  The cost of the parts is minimal compared to the future protection you’re providing to the stat wire.

Remove the old dried up stat wire from the suction line insulation.  Cutting it back to about six inches from the wall will allow you to splice on new wiring.  Once it’s run through the conduit, wire nutted and taped for protection, leave a bit of the colored wires there.  A future technician will thank you.  A quick search back to your splice will easily reveal the connected wires.  This will give them the option of using that third wire as an alternate.

Shove the wire nuts into the penetration of the wall where it comes out.  Then slip the new wire through the conduit.  Fasten the conduit to the unit.  Then strap it to the rest of the lineset and high voltage conduit going to the AC.  This neat and clean workmanship of your repair IS required by the electrical code.

Looking Ahead

The next time you see exposed thermostat wire coming from the wall to the AC, think about what’s right for your customer.  If you’re a homeowner, it shouldn’t be too expensive to have your local HVAC company do this work on your system.

As always, whether dealing with high or low voltage electricity, there are inherent dangers and mechanical failures that can happen.  So, let’s leave it to the professionals.

Once again, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic, so leave a comment down below.

Thanks so much for stopping by and we’ll see you on the next blog topic!