Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Is Duct Cleaning Really Necessary?

Awareness about indoor air quality among homeowners is not as much as it should be. There are not many who give room temperature the importance it deserves. Room temperature denotes comfort and ease that is required after a long day at work. Comfortable room temperature keeps our loved ones in good spirits too.

However, this is not reason why comfortable indoor temperature is important. There is another very important factor called indoor air quality. It is not enough that the temperature inside your home is comfortable; the quality of air should also be healthy. 

Importance of Indoor Air Quality 

The State Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) Program by the State of California Department of Public Health states poor indoor air quality is one of the top five environment hazards. The air that flows into the rooms of your house needs to be clean. Otherwise, it could create health problems and have adverse effects on the occupants. It is required that all homeowners realize the importance of having clean air flowing into the rooms from the air conditioner. The air filters of your air conditioners and the ducts of the system play a very important role in maintaining healthy indoor air quality. 

The cool air that flows out from the air conditioners comes from the ducts in the air conditioner. These ducts dispense the conditioned air from unit into the rooms of the house. They are mainly concealed in the walls, at the back of the systems, in attics, basements or ceilings.

These ducts need to be kept in good shape and health. For, the air that flows out from them is the one you and your family inhales! Like all tubes, ducts also need periodic cleaning and can give rise to serious health problems, if neglected. 

Duct Cleaning

Cleaning of the ducts means removing the impurities that get deposited into the various heating and cooling components of your comfort systems. This includes the supply and return air ducts, heat exchangers heating and cooling coils, the grilles and diffusers, fan motor and fan housing, condensate drain pans (drip pans), and the housing of the actual air handling units. 

These components can get contaminated with particles of dust, or other types of debris. They can also be the house for microbiological growth like mold and mildew, and the spores from such growth get released into the indoor air. These contaminants can be the cause for allergic reactions or cold and flu in the people exposed to them. 

Hence, cleaning the ducts and the other components of the air conditioners and heating systems is very important for the health of your family. 

When Should the Ducts be Cleaned? 

This is a tricky question. Usually, when you purchase a new air conditioner, the HVAC contractor will carry out periodic checks and maintenance, which could include duct cleaning. But, not always will duct cleaning be included in these maintenance exercises. 

Perhaps, if nobody in your household has any allergies or other symptoms or illnesses, the ducts may not require cleaning. You could also visually inspect the inside of the ducts. If there is no indication of contamination or deposits of dust, mold or odor, you may not really need to clean the ducts. Meanwhile, there may be deposits of loose dust in the ducts. This does not indicate any contamination and can be cleaned by simply vacuuming the ducts.

Methods of Duct Cleaning

There are some standards established by industry associations regarding the cleaning of ducts.  Typically, a service agency will send out a technician who will use specialized tools to dislodge the dust, dirt and any other deposits in ducts. He will them vacuum the ducts with a vacuum cleaner. 

In some case, the technician may suggest applying chemical biocides to the insides of the ducts. This kills the microbiological contaminants. Some agencies recommend applying some chemical treatments such as sealants, to coat the insides of the air ducts. This, they claim, will control the growth of mold growth and prevent the dirt particles or fibers formation in the ducts. 

To sum it all, the ducts of our air conditioning units play an important role when it comes to maintaining indoor air quality. 

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Troubleshooting a Window-Mounted Air Conditioner

In homes that do not have central HVAC systems, window air conditioners provide great relief especially when summer is at its peak. Window air conditioners, just like other comfort systems, are susceptible to damage, if they are not maintained well. 

Maintenance and periodic cleaning are essential for all home appliances. They are the health mantras for the long, efficient, and problem-free lives of your home comfort systems. Those of you who have wall-mounted window air conditioners have a set of tasks to perform. These, if neglected, can make a hole in your pocket and cause a lot of inconvenience as well. 

There are some HVAC problems that you can fix yourself. All you may need to do is some troubleshooting. If problem solving is something you would rather not do, troubleshooting will help you in narrowing down the potential problems, helping you make informed decisions about repair or replacement.

Common Problems in Window Air Conditioners

1. The air conditioner does not turn on 

If you experience problems when you turn on your window air conditioner, i.e. if your window air conditioner refuses to start up, check if it is receiving power. Try unplugging and plugging it again. Next, you could try plugging it in a different socket. Check the same socket with another appliance to ensure power is passing through. If you are still having problems, check your circuit breaker. If there is power, there could be problems in any of the related components in the unit, such as wiring, compressor, thermostat, selector switch or control board. Please call a professional HVAC technician to handle these. 

2. The fan does not blow out cold air

If there is no cold air blowing out from the system, but the fan is running, you need to check if the thermostat is set correctly. If this is okay, check the compressor motor, which is situated inside the air conditioner, in the form of a small case. If the compressor makes a humming nose continuously, there could be a problem in the condenser, or the evaporator or the compressor itself. Another option is that the motor may be broken. Here again, you will need a licensed technician to fix the problem. 

3. The air conditioner does not blow out cold enough air

If you feel that after having kept your air conditioner on for a few minutes, the air that is blowing out is not cold enough, you will first need to check the temperature of the air. This can be done with a simple thermometer. If you notice that the temperature of the air going in is 15° higher than that of the air that is blowing out, you can conclude that the unit is doing more work than it is capable of. This is not a good sign.
On the other hand, if the difference is less than 15°, check if the air damper is open. Next, check the back cover, which may have been forgotten after the winter has passed. Finally, you need to check the condensing coils. For this, remove the cover of the air conditioner and clean the coils with a soft brush.

4. The coils are freezing 
This problem could be due to a dirty air filter. Dirt that accumulates on the air filter restricts the air flow to the evaporator coils. This reduction in the airflow makes the evaporator too cold. This causes humidity inside the room, which causes condensation and the coils freeze. When coils freeze, further problem is caused as there is reduced airflow because of the frost. 

5. Water leaks out of the air conditioner 

When you notice water at the base of the air conditioning unit, the main reason could be improper installation. You could try to tilt the system backwards a little. This will allow the water to drain away. Window air conditioners are known for water collection water at the base of the unit. 

Being aware of these troubleshooting tips will help you in detecting the problem and deciding on the need to call a HVAC professional. Some of these common problems can be fixed by the average homeowner, for some a technician may be required.