Air Conditioner Preventative Maintenance Category

End of Season AC Maintenance – What You Need to Know

ac maintenanceThe end of the cooling season doesn’t mean the end of AC maintenance. Before you put your air conditioner to bed for winter, a few simple maintenance tips will help ensure that it’s ready to keep you comfortable when you wake it up again next spring. Seasonal start-up is often the time when system problems occur, often because basic end of season AC maintenance was neglected months ago when the system was shut down. Here are some things to take care of now:

  • Power down the central air conditioner unit. This ensures that nobody turns the system on at the thermostat accidentally during the winter by selecting “Cool” instead of “Heat.”
  • Remove the system air filter and replace it with a fresh one. Central A/C and heating systems share the same filter. Don’t start the winter heating season with a dirty air conditioning filter left over from the summer.
  • Inspect the condensate drain pan. Situated under the indoor air handler, this wide flat pan collects condensation dripping off the evaporator coil while the air conditioner’s running. Make sure there is no standing water in the pan. Residual water left in the pan will spawn algae and mold growth over the winter. If you notice standing water, that usually means a clog somewhere in the condensate drain system. Contact a qualified HVAC service provider to restore drain function.
  • Clear the outdoor unit. Make sure there are no fallen leaves or branches in the fan opening on top. Also, clear away weeds or other vegetation to leave two feet of open space on sides. Consider a commercially-available vented A/C cover that slips over the unit to protect it during the winter, available in sizes to fit your air conditioner.
  • Check it during the winter. Don’t allow heavy amounts of snow or ice to accumulate on the unit. If it’s located in an spot where icicles falling from the eaves above may strike it, place a piece of plywood or other protection atop the unit.

Need professional advice or help for end of season AC maintenance? Contact Apollo Heating, Cooling , Electrical and Plumbing.


Extending the Life of Your HVAC System – Things to Avoid

HVAC maintenanceExtending the life of an HVAC system is doable. So, unfortunately, is shortening its expected service life. The combined average life expectancy of an air conditioner and furnace averages about 15 years. Typically, the furnace lasts longer than the A/C. However, that 15-year estimate is based on the assumption that both systems are professionally installed, receive regular maintenance and are operated according to manufacturer’s recommendations. If that doesn’t happen, all bets are off.

To increases the odds of extending the life of an HVAC system, avoid these mistakes:

  • Unqualified installation. Every new furnace or air conditioner should be properly sized to the BTU requirements of the home before installation. This means an accurate load calculation must be performed by a professional HVAC contractor. Over-sized and under-sized units not only under-perform in heating and cooling and cost more to operate, they tend to wear out much sooner.
  • Skipping annual check-ups. Your furnace or air conditioner manufacturer’s warranty probably requires yearly professional maintenance. That’s because it’s vital to maximize expected service life. Each unit should get seasonal preventive maintenance from a qualified HVAC technician at the outset of the heating and cooling seasons, respectively.
  • Ignoring important upkeep. As the homeowner, you can contribute to longer service life by changing the system air filter monthly—an easy DIY procedure that’s also inexpensive when you buy replacement filters in multi-packs. A dirty, clogged filter reduces system airflow. Low airflow not only raises operating costs, it also over-stresses vital system components like the air conditioner compressor and furnace heat exchanger. Early failure of these very expensive parts may mean early replacement of the entire unit.
  • Inefficient operation. Use of an outmoded manual thermostat often means the the furnace or air conditioner is cycled on and off much more frequently. This adds to system wear and tear, shortens expected service life and consumes more energy. A digital programmable thermostat automates temperature changes with fewer on/off cycles to maintain a more comfortable indoor environment at lower cost.

Ask the experts at Apollo Heating, Cooling and Plumbing for more advice about extending the life of an HVAC system.

Early Signs of CO Poisoning

signs of co poisoningCO poisoning, caused by exposure to carbon monoxide gas, can be chronically debilitating at low levels and quickly fatal at higher levels. Carbon monoxide, a byproduct of combustion in gas-fired furnaces, stoves, motor vehicles and even wood-burning fireplaces, is odorless and colorless and may accumulate inside a home without occupants being aware of it. This is why it is so important to know the early signs of CO Poisoning.

At up to 70 parts per million (ppm) of CO concentration in indoor air, most people will experience no symptoms. Between 70 ppm and 150 ppm, symptoms may be vague and easily dismissed as indications of any number of other illnesses. Above 150 ppm, disorientation, unconsciousness and death from CO poisoning can occur in rapid succession.

Know the Early Signs of CO Poisoning

Because the effects of CO poisoning vary according to the concentration in the air and individual factors like age and general health, it’s important to be aware of early symptoms like these:

  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath or labored breathing.
  • Nausea and loss of appetite.
  • Dizziness

Specific Signs of CO Poisoning

Since these symptoms mimic early stages of other common illnesses, especially the flu, also be aware of these additional factors that are specific to CO poisoning:

  • Symptoms disappear or greatly diminish when you leave the house for any length of time.
  • Everyone living in the house reports symptoms instead of only one or a few individuals, as with common flu.
  • Those who spend the most time at home have the most severe symptoms.
  • The symptoms are not accompanied by other classic flu-like signs such as fever or swollen glands.
  • Household pets may also become lethargic, lose appetite and show other unexplained symptoms.

The best protection from carbon monoxide is the proper number of CO detectors installed at the right places in the home. That means one per each level of the house plus one inside or directly outside every bedroom. Test detectors monthly and replace batteries twice a year in battery-powered units.

For more advice about recognizing the early symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, and technology to protect your family from the consequences, contact the professionals Apollo Heating, Cooling, Electrical and Plumbing today.

Air Conditioner Troubleshooting: When You Need a Pro

air conditioning troubleshootingIf things go wrong with your cooling system, how much air conditioning troubleshooting should you attempt yourself? Where’s the tipping point when it comes to when to call in a qualified professional, instead? The fact is, technology incorporated in today’s central air conditioners is complex and beyond the expertise of the average homeowner. For this reason—as well as valid safety concerns and warranty restrictions, too—the list of DIY air conditioner troubleshooting is necessarily short.

Nevertheless, a few basic steps will at least eliminate obvious issues and narrow down the causes.

Air Conditioning Troubleshooting Tips Before You Call a Professional

A/C doesn’t start at all. First check the thermostat and make sure the system’s in “Cooling” mode. Also verify that the desired temperature setting is at least 5 degrees below the displayed room temperature. If everything appears correct, look inside the main electrical panel for any tripped circuit breakers. If you notice one, don’t reset it. Call a qualified HVAC contractor and inform them.

System runs but poor cooling performance, low airflow, etc. Inspect the system air filter. Does it appear dusty and dirty? Remove the filter and take it to a home center to buy a replacement. Install the new filter and check the airflow. Also, make sure nothing’s obstructing vents on the outdoor half of the A/C system: fallen leaves or objects someone placed on top of the fan grille can be the problem, as can encroaching weeds or other vegetation that obstructs side air vents. If the problem persists, you need professional help.

Leaking water. If you notice water around the indoor air handler, check the wide condensate drain pan situated underneath. Is standing water inside the pan? Overflow caused by a clogged condensate drain line is likely and will require a qualified HVAC technician to clear the clog. Another possible cause of leakage is ice forming on the evaporator coil inside the air handler. This is usually the result of a very dirty coil or low refrigerant level—both requiring professional service to diagnose and resolve.

If basic air conditioner troubleshooting hasn’t solved your cooling problems, contact a professional at Apollo Heating, Cooling, Electrical and Plumbing.

Air Conditioner Preventative Maintenance: Spring is the Time

Spring’s the season for air conditioner preventative maintenance because summer’s the season for hot days and high household cooling demand. Air conditioner breakdowns almost always occur when a unit’s under the highest demand — typically during a severe summer heat wave. That’s an inconvenient time to live without cool comfort in the house. It can also be a difficult time to get emergency service as service technicians are often booked up. Take the opportunity now, before the weather heats up, to schedule a maintenance call with a qualified HVAC contractor. Here are four good reasons why spring’s the season for summer air conditioner preventative maintenance:

  • air conditioner preventative maintenanceManufacturer-Recommended Service. A qualified HVAC technician will perform a checklist of procedures specifically designed to support the cooling function and energy efficiency of your A/C, while also reducing wear and tear and extending service life of expensive components.
  • Preventive Inspections. A preventative maintenance service call also allows the field technician to perform a complete evaluation that may reveal incipient problems that could cause malfunctions later in the summer when the system’s under maximum stress. Dealing with minor issues now is more cost-effective than waiting until they cause major breakdowns later.
  • Lower Operating Costs. The efficiency ratings assigned to your air conditioner are all based on the assumption of annual preventative maintenance by a qualified professional. If proper maintenance is neglected, energy efficiency is usually the first casualty and higher operating costs are the inevitable result. Proper pre-season maintenance ensures you get all the efficiency and economy your A/C is engineered to deliver.
  • Warranty Compliance. Major manufacturers of most central air conditioners require proof of annual preventative maintenance as part of the warranty terms. Should you need service or replacement in the future, without a record of annual maintenance by a qualified HVAC service provider you may be denied coverage under the warranty.

For annual air conditioner preventative maintenance before another hot Cincinnati summer, contact the HVAC professionals at Apollo Heating, Cooling, Electric and Plumbing.


Handling an A/C refrigerant fluid Leak in Your Cincinnati Home

A refrigerant fluid (refrigerant) leak, while not exceptionally common, is still a very real possible cause of the need for air conditioner repair in Cincinnati. This is due in part to our urban environment and hot, humid summers, which pose a number of threats to an air conditioner.

An Hvac technician searching for a refrigerant leak on an evaporator coil.

Source: istockphoto
A man checking for a refrigerant fluid leak.

Why refrigerant fluid Leaks Happen

If the joints or valves in your A/C’s copper refrigerant lines aren’t sealed thoroughly during installation, or they came from the factory damaged or poorly welded, refrigerant fluid will slowly seep out. You’ll start to notice a decline in cooling performance within one to five years after installation.

Formic acid, which naturally occurs in the soil, can cause pinhole leaks and cracks in refrigerant lines. These tend to worsen over time.

In our densely populated urban area, theft attempts are another potential cause of leaks. While trying to steal the valuable copper in your system, scrap metal thieves damage the refrigerant lines. The resulting leak usually causes a sudden drop in cooling performance.

How Your Technician Can Stop the Leak

A refrigerant leak does more than cut your system’s cooling capacity. refrigerant fluid is toxic, so if you suspect a leak, call a technician immediately. Your technician will bring an electronic refrigerant fluid leak detector that can be moved over the parts of your system and will produce a signal when it senses refrigerant fluid.

Once found, the leak can usually be repaired. This is often the most cost-effective option for systems less than 10 years old that still have most of their refrigerant fluid. Repairs usually involve soldering damaged copper tubing or replacing valves. If a coil is leaking, however, the component may need to be replaced.

Once the leak is stopped, replacement refrigerant fluid will be added. Alternatively, you could replace the whole air conditioning system while it’s still under warranty.

If all the refrigerant fluid has leaked out or the compressor or other components have failed, there’s only a small chance a patch will work. You’re most likely better off replacing the system.

For reliable air conditioner repair in Cincinnati, contact us at Apollo Heating, Cooling and Plumbing in the Greater Cincinnati area.

Don’t Forget A/C Maintenance as Cincinnati Heats Up

With summer temperatures reaching into the 90s, southern Ohio is hard on its air conditioners. This heat, combined with our area’s high humidity, makes air conditioner maintenance in Cincinnati a greater concern than in cooler areas, but it’s not necessarily complicated.

An air conditioning repairman working on a compressor unit.

Source: istockphoto
A repairman working on an a/c unit.

Keep Your System Clean

A buildup of dirt and debris on your air filter interferes with normal airflow. To compensate, your fan motor has to work harder to bring in enough air. This reduces the system’s energy efficiency and wears down the motor. Check your filter monthly and replace it if you find debris buildup. One-inch fiberglass filters usually last only a month. Consider upgrading to higher-efficiency pleated filters, which improve your indoor air quality, protect your system better, and last longer.

Thanks to our area’s wind, cleaning the outdoor unit is another important part of air conditioner maintenance in Cincinnati. Periodically use a stiff brush to remove dry leaves, grass clippings, and other debris from the outdoor unit’s fins. Every year, remove the unit’s top and clean out debris inside with a wet-vac.

A clogged condensate drain can let water back up into your house, causing damage. Every two months, pour half a cup of white vinegar into the condensate line to discourage algae that can cause blockages. Once or twice each cooling season, use a wet-vac to pull sludge from the outside end of the drain.

A Few Extra Steps

Easing the demand on your air conditioner also helps protect your air conditioner. Air leaks around your doors and windows let in hot, humid air, making more work for your air conditioner. Seal these leaks with caulk or weatherstripping as needed to improve your comfort and your A/C’s efficiency.

Well before the cooling season kicks off, schedule an annual professional air conditioner evaluation. A technician can clean the evaporator coil, tighten electrical connections, replace worn relays, check the refrigerant level, and perform other tasks that keep your system efficient.

If you’re looking for pro help with air conditioner maintenance in Cincinnati, contact us at Apollo Heating, Cooling and Plumbing in the Greater Cincinnati area.

Understanding A/C: What’s the Difference Between Evaporator and Condenser Coils?

To most folks, the science behind air conditioning is pure magic. The process cools your house and that’s all you care about… until it stops working. However, a basic understanding of the process behind air conditioning will provide you with a better ability to troubleshoot problems. Evaporator and condenser coils are at the heart of this process.


Source: Freedigitalphotos

Why Refrigerant Is So Important

First, it’s important to understand how refrigerant plays a role in air conditioning. It easily transitions between liquid and gas, and when it does, it either extracts heat from the air or releases heat into the air. Pressure aids the process.

How an Air Conditioner Works

In a split-system central air conditioner, liquid refrigerant, also called coolant, is pumped into the home. It flows through an evaporator coil, which is either located in a dedicated air handling unit or attached to the furnace plenum.

Before the coolant flows into the evaporator coil, an expansion valve reduces pressure on the refrigerant, causing it to evaporate into a gas. As this happens, the refrigerant extracts heat energy from the surrounding air. The removal of heat from the air cools it off, and that cooled air is blown away from the coil and circulated throughout the home via a blower fan and air ducts.

At this point, the A/C pumps the gaseous refrigerant back outside to the condenser/compressor unit, usually located on a concrete pad next to the house. The compressor squeezes the gas, turning it back into a liquid. As the gas returns to a liquid state , heat is released into the outside air, blown away by an exhaust fan.

All air conditioning systems — central, portable and package units — operate on the same principle. Electric, air-source heat pumps cool homes in this manner as well, using a reversing valve to switches the process from indoor cooling to heating. When this happens, the indoor evaporator coil operates as a condensing coil during heating, and the outdoor condenser coil becomes an evaporator coil.

For more information on how evaporator and condenser coils cool your greater Cincinnati home, please contact us at Apollo Heating, Cooling and Plumbing.

Regular A/C Maintenance Gives You Peace of Mind Over the Summer

During the peak of summer, your air conditioner must be in good condition to keep up with the rising temperatures, and this requires regular maintenance. Basic A/C maintenance helps to keep your system running efficiently and it prevents system problems that can lead to costly repairs or system failures.

Cleaning the air conditioner

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Here are a few things you can do to prepare your system for the summer:

Have Your System Professionally Serviced

Near the beginning of the cooling season, you should have your HVAC contractor inspect your system and perform routine A/C maintenance. This will typically include cleaning the condenser and evaporator coils, changing the air filter, cleaning the blower fan, checking the refrigerant level, inspecting the electrical connections and lubricating moving parts. The process will make sure your system is prepared for summer and running efficiently, and it will protect the system’s warranty.

Check the Air Filter Often

Check your air filter at least once a month during the cooling season and change it as necessary. The air filter helps protect your system from damaging particulates in the air and helps to improve your indoor air quality. A clogged filter can allow dirt and dust to collect on the evaporator coil, which can reduce the system’s cooling ability and even lead to severe system damage.

Keep the Condenser Coil Clean

Poor airflow over the condenser coil can prevent your system from cooling properly and potentially allow the compressor motor to overheat and fail, an expensive repair. Keep the area around the condenser coils free of tall grass, furniture and other objects that can block airflow. Remove debris such as twigs and leaves from the condenser coil by hand, then use a garden hose to rinse the condenser clean.

Clean the Evaporator Coil Annually

Clean the evaporator coil of dust, hair and other debris by using a specialized coil cleaner or a combination of a soft brush and vacuum. This will improve your system’s efficiency, prevent cooling problems and system damage.

To schedule an A/C maintenance appointment for your system, contact our team at Apollo Heating, Cooling and Plumbing, serving the Cincinnati area.

Troubleshooting Tips for an Air Conditioner That’s Acting Up

If your cooling system isn’t doing its job, a little air conditioner troubleshooting can keep you from suffering through the greater Cincinnati area’s summer heat and save your a call to your technician.