What do you know about your central air conditioning system? Most homeowners know the cool air blows into the room and keeps their home comfortable, even on the hottest days. However, your AC system is making noises or not working and you can’t figure out why. This is why it’s helpful to take the time to learn more about how a central AC system is designed and what each component does.
The Main Components of a Central AC System
You have three main components to central air. While you don’t need to know exactly how to repair or care for every component in your AC system, that’s what All Year Cooling excels at, it helps to know what the different components are. Why learn this? It helps you better understand when a noise isn’t normal.
- The AC Unit
Any central AC system outside the home is often referred to as a condenser unit and sits on a pad to keep it off the grass or soil. It needs the support of that pad.
Within the cabinet is the condenser coil. Its purpose is to take the heat the coolant collected inside the home into the air outside. The condenser fan helps facilitate the transfer of this hot air away from the condenser coils. As the hot air travels away, a compressor converts it back to a liquid before it goes inside the home to the AC air handler.
There’s a shut-off switch somewhere that cuts power to the central AC system. If something goes wrong and it needs repair or cleaning, the shut-off switch helps cut the power to it.
- Dirt or grime buildup on the condenser coil preventing the release of heat.
- Branches or leaves blocking the fan vents on the AC unit.
- Electrical short within the wiring or connections to the shut-off switch or the motors that’s preventing the floor of electricity.
- Improper system sizing leading to fan motors burning out faster.
How do you know if there are problems in your exterior AC unit? You may hear unusual noises when you’re outside in your yard. If you’re always inside, you may not notice noises though. If your system isn’t effectively cooling your home and things seem to be working well inside, it can be a sign that something is wrong outside.
- The AC Air Handler
Head inside, and the main component is the air handler. Air is drawn from the intake vents into the air handler where it passes over the evaporator coils to cool the air. How does this happen?
Coolant continually passes from the exterior AC unit to the interior air handler through copper tuning known as a lineset. That refrigerant travels through the evaporator coils where an expansion valve turns the refrigerant into a gas. The gas absorbs the heat from the surrounding air and pushes the cooler air into the ductwork to blow around the home.
As the coils cool off, condensation commonly forms. This condensation collects in a pan and is pumped outside through a condensate drain line. This line must be kept free of clogs to prevent the water from backing up and spilling out of the pan and into the home.
How does the system know when to turn on and off? If it keeps running non-stop, your rooms would turn into a refrigerator. A thermostat is used to determine when a room is at the right temperature or when it’s too warm and needs cooling. The thermostat control wire connects the thermostat in the home to the air handler.
- Overcharged or undercharged coolant signifies that there’s a leak in a coil or lineset or that the system was never properly charged.
- Worn contacts that are preventing electricity from starting a blower or condenser motor.
- An electrical issue that’s preventing electricity from flowing.
- Thermostat failure resulting in the system not knowing if a room is at the right temperature.
- Blocked drain line leading to overflows.
- Improper system sizing leading to fan and pump motors burning out faster.
It’s easier to hear rattles, squeals, and other alarming noises with the air handler. This makes it easier to pinpoint problems with your evaporator or fans, but a Florida AC technician can pinpoint the exact issue and get it repaired.
- The Ductwork
A central AC system cools the air and releases warmer air outside in a continual pattern. Without ductwork installed throughout the home, none of that cooled air will make its way around the home.
Cooled air from the AC air handler is blown over the evaporator coils using a blower. It enters the air duct, travels around the home following the ducts, and exits through registers or vents in the ceiling, wall, or floor. It will travel to the return air duct with warm air that’s drawn from the rooms. There, it passes through a filter to collect dust, pollen, and pet hair.
That air filter needs to be changed every few months. It may need replacing before that, especially if you have a lot of pets. To determine if it needs changing, hold it up to the light and see if you can see through it.
- Holes or cracks in the ducts releasing air into the walls, attic, or basement that may require duct replacement.
- Mildew and mold growing in the ducts requiring duct restoration.
- Rodents dying in the vents causing foul odors and requiring sanitization.
- Insufficient duct insulation needing duct sealing.
How Long Will Those AC Components Last?
In addition to those common issues with central AC components, the average lifespan of an AC unit is 15 years. If your system gets more use than others due to hotter weather extremes or improper system sizing, it may not even make it to 10 years before it’s time to discuss the installation of a new AC system.
Stop and consider the factors that go into an AC system’s sizing. When you have an AC system professionally installed, the technicians take measurements of your home’s square footage to make sure you have the correct system for your home’s size. But, there’s more to it than that.
If you have a lot of natural lighting, the sunlight can heat up your home. Dark paint colors and furnishings can absorb heat from the sunlight and release it back into the room. High ceilings and large open floor plans also impact the size of AC you need. Trees, room-darkening blinds, and lighter colors and furnishings can all reduce the amount of work your AC system has to do to cool your home.
If a system is too small, pumps and motors run constantly to try to cool off rooms enough. If the system is too large, you might think that’s better, but it’s actually just as damaging. The short cycles of the system turning on and off wear out the components, which shortens the life of your system.
When your AC system isn’t as effective as it used to be or it’s making unusual noises, don’t delay. Call a licensed, insured air conditioning repair and installation expert. Florida’s weather is hot and humid all summer long, and even winter temperatures can be uncomfortable. Make sure your air conditioning system is in top condition by having a professional inspection. Fill out the online form to schedule a three-point AC system evaluation or repair service.