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Summer heat takes a toll on A/C units

By Dawn Burleigh

The Orange Leader

 

When an air conditioning unit is not functioning at full capacity, it has a twofold effect.

“A three-ton unit will only have the capacity of 2.5 tons, if it is not at full capacity,” Innovative Air owner Robert Currie said. “It becomes less efficient, costing the person more. It has to run longer to keep the temperature at 72. It creates a snowball effect.”

A unit low on freon can still handle outside temperatures in the 80s. but once they start hitting 90 and above, it will not be able to keep up.

“It will plateau at 95,” Currie said. “Even a quarter pound low, the unit will have a loss of capacity and efficiency.”

Another problem which can affect a unit is the drain lines.

In Southeast Texas, an air-conditioning unit can produce one gallon of water per hour, per ton.

For clarification, a five-ton unit will produce five gallons of water per hour.

“That water could be on your ceiling due to clogged drain lines,” Currie said.

Poor drainage is due to dirt in the lines from poor air filters and a lack of maintenance on the unit.

“All kind of things in there,” Currie said. “It is 50-percent dark and 100-percent humidity. That is where algae comes from. It can affect fan motors capacitors by making it too hot.”

It also increases the use of electricity with the unit running all night to attempt to maintain a comfortable temperature.

While maintenance is important, so is having the right size unit for the building.

“We do a scale drawing of the house with every door, window and closet,” Currie said. “We then determine what is needed for each room to maintain room temperature.”

The size of the duct is as important as well.

“For years, the standard was 500 square feet per ton,” Currie said. “That is far from reality now.”

It is why Innovative Air does a Heat Load Calculation for each job.

Heat Load Calculation determines the area I square feet of the space cooled, the heat gain through the windows, and the heat generated by the occupants.

“It also takes out the guess work of what size is needed,” Currie said.

It is also required by code in Orange and West Orange before a permit can be approved for a unit can be changed out.

The most costly air conditioning repair is an air leak, according to Currie.

“Not only does it affect the indoor quality but small duct leaks adds up,” Currie said. “It is not equipment, it’s the duct work. Sometimes it is a house issue.”

Currie explained how a storm such as Harvey could affect the efficiency of the duct work and an unit.

“Harvey was different from Ike,” Currie said. “Units from Harvey are still out there. But they are not functioning as efficiently because of substandard work or something as simple as walls being moved during repairs.”

A wall being moved affects the Heat Load Calculation.

Innovative Air provides homeowners with information and will prioritize which needs to be done now and what can wait.

“The key is maintenance,  maintenance, maintenance,” Currie said. “A mediocre unit can last you 15 years with proper maintenance. While a new unit, not maintained, will be dead after a couple of years.”

If one is using good filters, the inside coils should be cleaned once a year.

Innovative Air recommends using filters with a MERV rating of 11.

“A filter is used to filter out before it gets to our noses,” Currie said. “Cheap filters, with no maintenance leads to water with mold and algae. Then we get the water leak calls.”

Currie demonstrates by using a thin 1-inch filter, MERV 1, and sprinkling salt over it and shows how the salt falls through the filter. Then he shows the difference of the MERV 11 filter which is 4-inches thick and how something as fine as salt gets trapped in it.

Innovative Air also offers the REME-HALO which is designed to eliminate sick building syndrome risks by neutralizing orders, particulate, air pollutants, mold bacteria, and viruses. It is mounted into the ductwork.

“It is very effective,” Currie said. “We have never had any complaints from those who had it installed.”