SMUD Suspends Certain Rebates Due to COVID-19

SMUD Suspends Rebates

Sacramento County Utility Companies Navigate the Effects of the Coronavirus: What It Means for You

At the beginning of 2020, Sacramento county residents were offered lucrative rebates for choosing to upgrade their HVAC systems to a more carbon-free fuel source.   Since the downturn of the economy in America, businesses, even utility company SMUD, have been oozing money.  SMUD has had to focus more on taking care of customers who can’t afford to pay their bills during the epidemic.  This is putting pressure on the source of funding for the 2020 rebates.  SMUD is even suspending certain rebates.

Getting to Carbon Neutral

As SMUD utility company guides its customers with a plan called electrification, their goal is to follow California’s mandate to become carbon neutral in the next 20 to 30 years.  One way of doing this was to incentivize their Sacramento County residents to stop using fossil fuels to heat their homes.  Various options for upgrading a home’s HVAC system exist.

Reduced and Suspended SMUD Rebates on the Horizon

Due to the COVID-19 epidemic, however, half of the rebates have been suspended, at least until the end of the year.  The others have been reduced but still offer an exceptional rebate opportunity for switching from gas to electric.  Customers can still work with their contractors to get these upgrades until the funds run out.

Measure Current Rebate Effective May 29
Air conditioner with gas furnace upgrade $1,500 Suspended
Dual fuel HVAC upgrade $2,500 Suspended
Heat pump HVAC upgrade – electric to electric $1,500 $750
Heat pump HVAC upgrade – gas to electric $4,000 $2,500

In March, we told you about the reductions in water heater rebates.  We let our readers know those rebates would only be around until the funding source ran out.  We’ve also been telling our customers who are looking to upgrade their HVAC systems that the HVAC rebates wouldn’t be this rewarding for long.  By the end of summer, we at Fox Family thought the rebates would be depleted. 

Timing is Everything

There is still time to get your HVAC upgrade project done this year, and there are some great financing options we offer to get them done. But again, time isn’t on your side.  Get in on these rebates now while they exist, because we don’t see them being around, or at least this fruitful for long.

Can I Finance a New HVAC System? Yes!

Can I Finance a New HVAC System

Investing in a new heating and air conditioning system is for many people, an unplanned expense. Fox Family Heating and Air Conditioning has several choices if you need to finance a new HVAC system.

When you choose to finance your HVAC system replacement using one of Fox Family Heating and Air Conditioning lenders, you will get a superior product, quality installation, and unmatched warranties, at a reasonable monthly payment that fits your budget.

Synchrony Bank

Our most popular choice to finance a new HVAC system is traditional financing through Synchrony Bank. Synchrony allows you to choose the interest rate and payment term you prefer from four different options, including an option for interest-free financing for 18 months. The application process is quick and easy, with instant credit decisions.

The process involves two steps. First, you will walk through a simple credit application with the technician, and once approved, Synchrony will email you a financing agreement with the payment terms you choose, for your acknowledgment. This is all handled electronically, and the entire process takes as little as ten minutes.

There is no minimum requirement for credit, so this option is not limited to new systems – it can also be used to finance those unexpected HVAC repairs.

SMUD Financing

As a registered SMUD contractor, we can assist with your application for a secured, home performance installment loan through SMUD. They offer 6.99% APR for a 10-year loan to finance your new HVAC system. In order to apply for SMUD financing, you must be a current SMUD customer with a clean payment history and have no bankruptcy or foreclosures in the past 36 months.

YGRENE

This program allows you to make energy-efficient improvements to your home using PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy) financing.  PACE pays 100% of your project’s costs.  You repay these over a term of up to 20 years via an assessment on your property tax bill.   Approval is not based on your credit score, but rather the equity in your home. The requirements are a minimum of 15% equity in your home, no bankruptcy or foreclosures in the past 36 months, and you must be current on your mortgage and property tax. In some cases, you can get payment deferment for up to 18 months with this program.   The minimum purchase amount is $5,000.

Contact Fox Family today to get started!

HVAC Equipment Shortages Due To COVID-19 Pandemic Create Chaos

HVAC equipment shortage

There’s a significant shortage of HVAC equipment needed to replace our customers’ current systems.  In some areas, if you were to sell a new system to a family, there’s a chance that order with your distributor can’t be completely fulfilled.  And I’m going to talk about why.

Nobody thought in March or April of 2020 when we were all sitting at home following Stay At Home orders that our industry, primarily residential HVAC, would see a 30% to 60% uptick in business through the summer months of 2020.

May, June and July were months that our company, as well as almost every other contractor I’ve talked to, saw record sales, especially in the equipment replacement area.  I’ve talked to some contractors in other parts of the country that haven’t seen this increase in sales, but it’s been few and far between.

To get some answers as to why this shortage has occurred, I asked a couple of industry professionals in my area to give me their thoughts.  I wanted to know what other contractors are doing about it, and when we can expect our warehouses to get back to normal levels of equipment inventory.

Why has the HVAC Equipment Shortage Occurred?

COVID-19 affected all manufacturers in one way or another.  Some manufacturers were hit earlier than others due to outbreaks in their facilities, forcing them to abide by CDC regulations and shut down for two weeks at a time.  It slowed down production to a near halt.

One industry professional told me, “Everyone felt the effects when the raw materials used to build our equipment became unavailable.  Theses included things like control boards from India, motors, and controls from China, raw steel, raw aluminum, and copper from various parts of the world.”

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

What Are Contractors Doing Since Their Equipment Isn’t Available?

HVAC contractors, large and small, whose usual brand of equipment ran out, were forced to go to other stores and find anything they could get their hands on.  That created an even higher demand for equipment from our local suppliers.  So, while the sales were good for them, almost every supplier felt the squeeze, eventually getting to the point where they were out of product, which usually lasts a lot longer.

Another industry professional told me, “At first it seemed like a lot of contractors became extremely frustrated with the lack of inventory, especially since a lot of the jobs were already sold and they needed the equipment quickly.  But as time went on and EVERY supply house was having the same issue, it became apparent to us contractors that it wasn’t because these supply houses weren’t watching their inventory close enough, and restocking accordingly.  It was a bigger problem all around.”

When Will Things Get Back to Normal?

Equipment manufacturers are not and can not give us ETAs as to when equipment will be back to normal levels.  The demand for products and services in this area has outpaced the manufacturer’s ability to build, produce, and ship out inventory.

Some manufacturers are saying October, but that would be if no new setbacks occur from closures caused by another increase in COVID cases.  And in a time where new issues seem to arise from this pandemic every week, and with no dependable vaccine ready to go by the end of 2020, it’s tough to tell when the HVAC equipment shortage will end.

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

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.

Don’t Miss Our Video on This Topic:

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:

Fox Family Wins “Ultimate Family Game Room Prize Package” From Honeywell

“Ultimate Family Game Room Prize Package”.jpg

We’re excited to announce that Fox Family Heating & Air won a grand prize last month’s  “Ultimate Family Game Room Prize Package”.  Today we got to celebrate it today!  For every Honeywell Control we purchased over the summer through Ferguson HVAC Supply in Sacramento, we earned a ticket in the hat for the drawing.  And we won!

One HVAC contractor from the Arizona/Nevada, Southern California, and Northern California regions was chosen randomly in July of 2021.  The winners were announced in August.  And in September we received all the goodies!  The $2000 prize package including:

  • 60” Class UN7000 Series LED 4K UHD Smart webOS TV
  • XBOX One Game Station
  • PacMan Head2Head Home Arcade Game
  • Two Stealth 700 Gen 2 Black Wireless Gaming Headset
  • Ten-Game 48” Multi Game Table
  • 19” Wide 105 Can Capacity Extreme Cool Beverage Center
  • Family Game Room Sign
  • Rockville HTS56 1000w 5.1 Channel Home Theater System
  • 36” Round Bar Type Pub Table w/ four Residio Barstools
  • Yeti Roadie 24 Insulated Chest Cooler

All had a great time as we gave away all the prizes through a raffle.  We gave everyone 30 tickets to put in for every item they wanted.  We threw in some extra things and made sure everyone won a prize.

Our team works so hard all year round, taking care of our Fox Family customers.  Today’s giveaway was a great way to show them some love.

Thanks so much to Ferguson HVAC Supply and Residio Honeywell Home for providing us with such great prizes from the “Ultimate Family Game Room Prize Package”.  Fox Family Heating & Air appreciates you!

How I Troubleshoot a Two-Stage Air Conditioner Compressor

Troubleshooting 2 stage compressor

A two-stage air conditioner is more efficient than a single stage.  Single-stage units run at OFF or 100% capacity, two-stage air conditioners run at OFF, (approx.) 70%, and 100% capacity.  So, you can probably imagine that a two-stage AC can save energy usage by about 30% because the majority of the time, two-stage air conditioning units operate in the first stage.  But how can we tell if the two-stage compressor is running correctly? That’s what we’re talking about today.

How It Saves Energy

Using only part of the scroll in today’s modern compressors, they don’t have to work as hard to keep the customer cool.  By only using part of the scroll, energy usage goes down because the motor that turns the shaft isn’t working as hard since it’s not pumping as much gas as it would in 100% mode.

Same fundamentals as a single stage unit

Testing a two-stage compressor is the same as you would try a single-stage compressor.  The only difference is a compressor solenoid that sends the signal to the compressor to switch from first stage to second stage and vice versa. An energized compressor solenoid sends the compressor into second stage or “loaded.” Otherwise, it defaults to the “unloaded” position in the first stage if it’s not energized.

I already have a great video on how I troubleshoot a compressor, so if you need to start there, feel free to click on the card above.  In this video, we want to figure out if the two-stage compressor can switch between the first and second stages.

Switching The Two-Second Stage Manually

After turning the AC on at the thermostat, you can manipulate the call for the first and second stage at the AC.  The low voltage wires coming from the furnace inside tell the compressor to be in first stage or second stage.  You usually have a common wire, a Y1, and a Y2 wire that connects to the same low voltage wires from the AC.  Tying Y2 to an energized system that is only calling for single stage (Y1) can force it into second stage.

Check The Amp Draws

With a call for first stage, set your meter to amps and record the reading on the (black) common wire from the compressor.  Keeping your meter there, switch to second stage by adding the unit’s Y2 wire to the wire to the Y1 connection.  Record your amp draw there.  It should be about 25% to 30% higher than the first stage reading.

Example: First stage amp draw is 7.4, second stage reads 10 amps would be normal if the RLA of the AC is anywhere between 15 and 20. 

If the amp draws increased the compressor has successfully “loaded” into second stage.  Remove the Y2 wire from the connection to Y1, and the system should fall back into first stage.  The amp draws will pretty much go back to the same amperage it was the first time you read it.

Check The Rectifier

If this process doesn’t work the way it should, let’s just check to make sure the 24 volts is getting to the proper spot, the compressor solenoid.  In our Trane units, there’s a little black rectifier on the sidewall of the service panel. It has four terminals.  Two of them are white wires that lead to the compressor solenoid.  The other two are connected to the call for second-stage cooling or the Y2 wire connection. 

At the rectifier, set your meter set to DC voltage and measure between the two white wires, and you should get about 15 to 27 volts DC with 24 volts applied to the rectifier.  If you have 24 volts to the rectifier but don’t have the DC voltage leading to the compressor solenoid, replace the rectifier chip.

rectifier Panel
24 VAC

Bad Compressor Solenoid Or Internal Damage

If you do have the proper DC voltage at the base of the white wires at the rectifier, but the compressor solenoid is not switching the unit to second stage, either the compressor solenoid is bad, or the compressor’s internal parts are failing.  In this situation, replace the compressor.

There’s not a lot of info out there on troubleshooting two-stage compressors.  Hopefully, this will help you navigate through the process of determining if the compressor itself is bad or if it’s something upstream of it.

Thanks so much for reading and make sure you catch next week’s blog!

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!

How‌ ‌I‌ ‌Troubleshoot‌ ‌An‌ ‌Air‌ ‌Conditioner‌ ‌Compressor‌

Trouble Shooting an air conditioning compressor

Hey HVAC techs! I’m Greg Fox, from Fox Family Heating & Air, and today we’re going to talk about how I troubleshoot a compressor.  This is going to be the single best blog you’ll ever read when it comes to troubleshooting an air conditioner’s compressor.  You could also check out our post on How To Troubleshoot An AC Unit.

So you walk into the customer’s home, and they say their AC was working just fine yesterday, but now it only blows warm or room temperature air.   So, I confirm what Mrs. Jones has told me.  There is room temperature air coming out of the supply vents.  That lets me know the blower is running, so I won’t start checking anything there yet. 

The next thing I want to do is head to the outdoor unit and check to see if it’s running. As you head around the corner, you can tell it’s not.

Checking for a short to ground.

Before going anywhere, check at the contactor to see if anything is shorted to ground.  Put your meter setting on “continuity” check.  Put one meter lead on the left terminal on the load side of the contactor and one to ground.  Do you have continuity there?  Try the other load terminal to ground.  Do you have continuity there?  

If you have continuity at either of these terminals to ground, then something downstream is shorted to ground. Now you just have to find it.  It could be:

  1. Any of the high voltage wiring.
  2. The contactor
  3. The capacitor or start capacitor
  4. The condenser fan motor
  5. The crankcase heater

Ohm Out The Air Conditioner Compressor

Let’s ohm out the compressor first.

I usually just do this with the wires at the service panel still connected to the compressor.  If I see something screwy, I’ll make an effort to check at the terminals themselves.

I try and stay away from the compressor lugs themselves because those terminals can actually blow out. There’s a few hundred PSI of refrigerant behind those terminals.  If they were to blow off while you’re in front of them, they could blow right through your hand, chest, or face.  So if I don’t have to go there first, I don’t.

 

Get your wires that lead to the compressor together.  Check your ohm’s reading between Common and Start, Common and Run, and Start to Run.  Without going crazy in-depth on it in this video, generally, you’ll notice the resistance between Common and Start will be a little higher than Common and Run.  The total of those two numbers is what you’ll read between Start and Run.  So, if you had 2.3 ohms between Common and Start and 1.7 between Common and Run, you should have about 4 ohms between Start and Run

If Common to Start and Start to Run is OL, then you have an open start winding.  Same on the other side.  If Common to Run is OL and Run to Start is OL, you have an open Run winding.

I’m trying to stress the AND here because if you have OL between Start and Common, but when you test between Start and Run, and it’s not open, it’s likely just the internal overload switch that’s open.  Let the compressor cool off and retest it before condemning the compressor. You’d hate to charge a customer for a bad compressor when it was just overheated due to another issue.

When the windings on the compressor are defective, the hermetic compressor will need to be replaced.  Hermetic compressors like the ones we work on in residential HVAC are sealed.  So, we can’t get into them to make any repairs.

What If The Windings Are Good?

Go check the breaker at the main panel.  A breaker has 3 positions. ON, OFF, and TRIPPED.  Is it tripped to the middle position?  Try resetting the breaker by flipping it to OFF and then back ON again.

Breakers trip due to heat and excessive tripping.  Resistance is a source of heat.  High current is a source of heat.  Hot outdoor temperatures beating down on the southwest side of the house can be a big source of direct heat to the breakers inside the panel.

If the breaker trips immediately, you’ve got an electrical short to ground somewhere. If the breaker trips after running for anything longer than immediately, you could have:

  1. Excessive current
  2. Too small of a breaker or fuse
  3. High indoor return air on a scorching hot day, which will put a ton of stress on the outdoor unit.
  4. A dirty condenser coil.  If the outdoor unit can’t draw in air across its coils, it’ll overheat the AC.

A breaker that trips several times can get weaker and weaker until it takes less heat to trip it.  So that’s a possibility to keep in mind.

If the breaker is not tripped, turn it off and check the fuses at the disconnect.  After checking for no voltage (since I just turned the breaker off), I always remove the fuses to check continuity between each end of the fuse.  If either of them is OL, it’s done its job and protected the circuit, but it’s also the reason the AC isn’t starting.  Should we just replace the fuse or reset the breaker and move on to our next call?  No way!  As an HVAC technician, aren’t you dying to find out why the breaker is tripping?

Is It A Locked Rotor?

A locked rotor most commonly happens at the beginning of the season, when it hasn’t been running for a while.  If you hear the compressor is trying to run, but it’s not pumping anything, it could be stuck.  Put an amp clamp on the Common wire while it’s trying to start. You’ll see the amps skyrocket beyond its LRA.  

In this instance, I let the customer know I want to try a hard start kit to see if it will give it that extra little kick it needs to get going.  If it doesn’t work, I’ll take the start kit back.  But if it does work, they’ll need to buy the start kit from us.  At that point, they just need to understand their compressor is on borrowed time.

Bypassing The Compressor

Another thing you can try is, removing the wires from the compressor altogether and just run the outdoor unit with the fan only.  If the fan works, great.  You can move on. You know it’s not the fan tripping the breaker.  

If the fan isn’t working, troubleshoot the fan. You may have to replace the fan motor, cool down the compressor until it’s ready to run again, and retest the system.  Rarely do I find the condenser fan motor, and the compressor will have gone bad on the same day.  But I guess it can happen.

Internal Overload

Let’s assume we do have good power to the condenser’s contactor and on to the fan motor and compressor.  But the compressor’s not working.  You can tell the fan works because it’s spinning just fine and even has good amp draws.

Let’s check and make sure the compressor hasn’t overheated and shut down on internal overload before we condemn this thing.  Check the resistance (by switching the meter to Ohms) between the Common and Start winding and then do the same with the Common and Run windings.  Does the meter show an open circuit on either one of those tests, but not between the Start and Run terminals?

If so, we should let the compressor cool down and retest it. 

Letting a compressor cool down on a 100-degree day can take a long, long time, too.  I like to use a garden hose to pour cool water over its top and let it run down the sides of it evenly.  There is literally a switch inside that compressor that will open or close depending on whether it’s safe to run it or not.  Kind of a self-destruct prevention switch.

Why did the compressor internal overload switch open in the first place?  A bad capacitor or hard start kit can cause the compressor windings to overheat or just not start at all.  So before we diagnose a bad compressor, we should make sure our capacitors are good.  

Something that tricked me one time was a bad start kit.  I called another tech I worked with, and they told me to try bypassing the start kit by removing it from the circuit.  Guess what?  The compressor started, and I haven’t heard from that guy again.

Bad Valves? Are You Sure?

Something I hear technicians say a lot is the compressor has a bad valve.  Well, today’s scroll compressors don’t have valves.  They do have bearings that can go bad!  But valves were an issue with reciprocating compressors in earlier models.

If you have decent refrigerant levels but have problems starting and running efficiently with a lot of vibration, or a metal clanking noise, you could have damaged bearings on the compressor.

It’s caused by refrigerant wearing out the oil, creating a situation where copper plating occurs.  From there, the compressor overheats and draws higher amps. 

Remember, you’ll see higher amp draws on a compressor the hotter it gets outside.  But, if a compressor is running anywhere near its RLA, and the refrigerant charge is good, that compressor is hurting.

If any of this sounds like what’s going on with the compressor you’re working on, it could have bad bearings, not bad valves.

AC repair compressor

Some other things to check

So many things can happen to a compressor to cause it to fail.  Not only do you have to diagnose the bad compressor, but you also have to find out why it’s not working.  I always tell my customers, the most important day of your system’s life is the day it was installed.  

  • Contaminated Refrigerant – The only things that should be inside the refrigerant lines are oil and virgin refrigerant.  If moisture, air, dust, or anything else gets inside, the lines will become contaminated.

Contaminated refrigerant will become acidic and eat away at the protective coating on the stator windings that make the compressor rotor spin.  Once the protective lining has deteriorated, the copper windings will become exposed and fail (in a big way!)  

This creates a situation where the compressor shorts directly to ground.  A wire has now created continuity with the compressor’s body and completely burns and charrs anything inside it.  The oil, the refrigerant, and the compressor components will all become black and lined with soot.  

  1. Burnt wiring – If the terminals attached to the compressor are burnt or barely intact, you can imagine the arcing that occurs across the gap of those loosely stranded wires.  That arcing creates an intense amount of current, which creates a ton of heat.  Replace the wires and retest the system.
  2. Incorrect sizing – Equipment or refrigerant lines of the wrong size can create an unbalanced system. 
  3. Indoor evaporator coil isn’t large enough – If this is the case liquid flood back can happen, causing an enormous amount of stress on the compressor.  
  4. Lineset too long –  There are maximum lengths of the refrigerant lines listed in the installation manuals for a reason.
  5. Stress on the lineset – Does the copper lineset go under a sidewalk or under the ground to make a dip in the refrigerant flow?  This can create a situation where there’s a ton of liquid refrigerant stuck in the lines right there and cause startup issues.
  6. Kinks in the lineset –  Any sort of restriction, even a stuck TXV, can cause unbalanced pressures during startup.
  7. Overcharged system – This can cause a lot of stress and locked rotor amps that are super high, preventing the compressor from starting normally.  Removing some refrigerant will alleviate the pressure.  Sometimes it’s just best to remove it all and start with a fresh charge so you, the technician, know how much is in there.  This helps make the diagnostic easier because now you have more information.

What else should folks check when troubleshooting a compressor?  Leave me a comment down below to share your expertise. Thanks so much for stopping by, and we’ll see you at the next blog post.

This is How to Successfully Troubleshoot an AC Unit

how to troubleshoot an AC unit

Breaking Down the Parts of a Air Conditioning System

Technicians just starting in the field have many questions about the process required to troubleshoot an AC unit.  In this series, I’ll break down the major parts of an AC system. But first, let’s go through a simple service call to figure out why the AC in question is not working.  Then we can get into more details in this series once we know what’s going on.

To successfully troubleshoot an AC unit, let’s start at the thermostat and go all the way to the outdoor unit turning on and the blower turning on, forcing air into the rooms of your house.

The Thermostat

When your house reaches a point where the AC needs to come on, a series of components work in a specific order to produce cold air.  So, go ahead and turn on the air conditioner.  Set the temperature down below what the temperature of the room is now.

Taking this step will make two switches inside the thermostat close:  the Y and the G terminal.  Y is for cooling – it turns on the outdoor unit, and G is for the air handler’s blower fan.

At this point, I always check the filter to make sure it’s clean.  Without a clean filter, your system can’t breathe in, so it won’t be able to breathe out, sending air into the house.

The Air Handler

Let’s go to the air handler first and see what’s going on there.

At the air handler or furnace, the control board is what’s calling the shots.  It receives the signal from the thermostat for Y and G to energize the terminal block.  If you put your meter leads on the C and Y terminals, you’ll get 24 volts.  Between C and G, you’ll get the same.

G is going to send the signal to the relay switch on that same board.  The closed switch tells the blower motor to come on.  It allows the 120 volts from the correct blower tap to start turning the blower wheel.  The blower motor on these units will have a capacitor on it. See my video below outlining the steps to test it.  On models made after 2019, blower motors became a little more advanced and energy-efficient.  Digitally commutated motors like this don’t use a capacitor.

The only other thing going on up at the air handler is the cold evaporator coil has refrigerant moving through it. There’s a metering device at the coil, but we’ll address that in another segment in this series.

Some furnace and coil combos have a condensate safety switch wired into the control board.  The air conditioner creates condensation that drains out to the side of the house. This switch provides a safety device that stops the air conditioner from producing any more condensation should the drain clog up.  See my video on this topic as well, below.

The Air Conditioner

Now let’s get out of this hot attic and head out to the air conditioner!  Technicians must be safety conscious at the AC.  Two hundred forty volts flowing through your body is no fun but regularly happens to people who aren’t qualified to work on it.

Let’s see what should be happening at the air conditioner when you take the panel off.  That Y signal from the air handler connects to the contactor, which pulls in, allowing the 240 volts from the house onto the compressor and condenser fan motor.  The compressor will pump the refrigerant to and from the outdoor coil and the indoor cold coil we talked about earlier.  The condenser fan motor keeps the outdoor unit cool by sending the heat from inside the house out of the AC unit’s top.

From here, the AC will provide about 18 to 22 degrees cooler air than is going into the return side of the system.  If it’s not and the air is reaching that temp split, you may need to check the refrigerant charge and start doing some more in-depth troubleshooting of the compressor and more, which is just what this series will explore.

Troubleshoot an AC Unit: Improving Your Skill Set

As a new technician, you don’t have to be intimidated by all kinds of moving parts and thermodynamics.  Yes, when you get down to the details about it, you’ll need to have a greater skill set, which means more training – and hopefully, this series will provide that for you.

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

Don’t miss our videos related to this topic:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=glFsL73YmNU&t=7s
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n-xOiDVhyFk
 

What Temperature Should I Set the Thermostat in My House?

Determining the Correct Temperature Setting for Summer in Sacramento

What temperatures should you keep it in your home during the summer?  That’s what we are going to be talking about on this blog post.

When moving to a new home or just using your central AC for the first time you may want to know the temperature you should keep it at in your home during the summer.  There are a few answers depending on who you ask.  So let’s talk about those differences now.

Energy Star

Energy Star is a voluntary program led by the EPA and Dept. of Energy that helps business and people figure out ways to save money on their electric bills.  Energy Star says you should keep it at 78 in your house.  They also say you should keep the temps at 84 degrees when you’re not at home.

Energy Star rated thermostats already have these predetermined temperatures set in them.  You’re able to adjust those temps whenever and however you choose as the owner of the thermostat.

SMUD and PG&E are our local utility providers.  SMUD follows the US Department of Energy when they suggest setting your thermostats at 78 degrees when you are home and setting it up to 10 degrees higher for those times when you are not at home.

What Could Go Wrong?

What I wouldn’t do is set the temperature all the way down to the lowest setting when you want the air conditioning on.  Several things can go wrong here, and it doesn’t get cooler any faster in the house when you do this.  What can happen is you forget to turn the thermostat back off when your done needing cool air.  This leads to sky-high electric bills and a home that sees extreme temperature changes throughout the day.

So what temperature should I keep it at?  It’s simple: whatever temperature you want it to be at.  Let’s say the temperature on your thermostat says it’s 78 degrees in your home. Are you comfortable?  If not try lowering the temperature one to two degrees and see if that makes a difference.  Still not satisfied?  Set the temperature down even more.  If you find yourself the most comfortable at 74 degrees, then so be it.  You’re the king of your castle and you can set to wherever you feel the most comfortable.

For example, I work in the HVAC industry.  In the summer, I spend long hot days fixing other people’s AC systems.  By the time I get home, all I want is a nice cool place to sit and relax.  I usually want it about 72 degrees in the home.  My co-workers sometimes want it down to 68 degrees!  Other folks who may work inside, in normal environments where temperatures aren’t soaring around 120 degrees are just fine with their home temps at or above 78 degrees.

How the different temps affect your electric bill

Be Aware

A person who keeps their AC at 78 degrees in his or her home will have their AC come on less than a person who desires it to be 68 degrees in their house.  Your AC is the most expensive thing to run in your house, and that’s a pretty big spread too between 68 and 78 inside the home.  Typically, a person who keeps their system at 74 degrees and then starts setting it at 78 degrees can expect to save about 25 to 35 dollars a month on their bill.  Over the length of the entire summer, that money adds up!

Saving Money

Consider buying a thermostat that sets back at predetermined times.  Energy Star says it can save you $180 a year by switching to a setback type thermostat.   This allows you to set your thermostat for times of the day when you are coming and going.  For instance, the Honeywell thermostats we use want to know what time you wake up, what time you go to work, what time you come home, and what time you go to bed.  These four major events in your family’s daily lives can determine what temperature it will be in the house.

At Fox Family, we can easily set a program for it for the weekdays and then set it for the weekends.  Folks who are in their homes for the majority of the day, or don’t have a schedule where they work during the week can set it up for just what time you wake up and what time you go to bed.  Really any combination is available as Honeywell lets you decide on your terms.

A Helping Hand

And if you have one of these programmable thermostats, and you don’t feel comfortable setting a program on the thermostat, call or text us and we’ll come out and show you how to do it.  It really doesn’t matter which brand of thermostat it is either.  We’re familiar with all different types of them, and we just want to make sure you’re comfy in your home.

Summary

I hope this answers your question as to what temperature to set your thermostat in the summer.  These sunny and hot Sacramento summers can really drive you bonkers with the fact that we need to cool ourselves and our homes down.  Set it to whatever you are comfortable at, and that’s the right temperature.  Just remember that as long as your AC is on, your electric usage goes up.  And somebody’s gotta pay for that.

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Thanks so much for watching and we’ll see you on the next video!

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