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HVAC Tips from Sears Heating and Cooling

We’ve been in the HVAC business since 1950, and with that experience comes a lot of knowledge. Read our professional tips here.

What Does An AC Contactor Do?

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What Does My Air Conditioner's Contactor Do? The capacitor and contactor work hand in hand to keep you air conditioner running all summer long. AC Power Center Along with the capacitor, the air conditioner's contactor works all summer long to keep power flowing to your air conditioner's most important parts. The contactor is essentially a type of switch that receives a low voltage signal (24V) from your furnace to power on. By creating a magnetic field, it pulls down a piece of metal that will connect both of the higher voltage sides. This closing of the circuit allows electricity to power the air conditioner's fan and compressor motors. Contactors come in generally two different types: single pole and double pole. A single pole contains one magnetic coil that will connect one circuit. A double pole is essentially the same thing but it has two coils and connects two circuits.  How To Know If A Contactor Is Bad One of the most classic signs a contactor has gone bad is a loud "chattering" type of noise coming from your outside condenser unit. Without a chattering noise, the best way to diagnose a bad air conditioner capacitor is to use a multi-meter device that measures the flow of electricity. Also, you may notice that some of the contacts on the contactor itself may have become pitted and worn down which happens naturally over time as the contactor ages. The average lifespan of a good contactor can be anywhere from 5-10 years assuming...
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What Is a Good SEER Rating?

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What SEER Air Conditioner Should I Get? What is a SEER rating and what does it mean to me? Let's find out! When it comes to air conditioner, a good SEER rating is a term that you may hear thrown around quite frequently. The SEER rating of an air conditioner measures the overall energy efficiency of the unit. SEER is a measured ratio of the cooling output of your air conditioner over the season, divided by the energy consumed in watt-hours. Different SEER Ratings Air conditioners today have a SEER rating ranging from 14 to 21. The minimum value is being updated on a constant basis however by the government. As time goes on, expect the minimum efficiency rating to keep going up (which is a good thing!).  It's important to note however that just because you buy a 14 SEER AC instead of a 21, that doesn't mean you are buying the "bottom of the barrel" equipment. Assuming you are replacing an old air conditioner, that new 14 SEER AC will be drastically more efficient than your old one.  Also, SEER rating is always rated as a maximum rating, meaning that just because your shiny new air conditioner is rated as a 21 SEER, this means that it is capable of achieving that level of efficiency, it's not operating at a constant 21 SEER.  A great way to think of a good SEER rating is comparing it to the MPG rating on a car. If you floor the accelerator...
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How Does R-22 Work?

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How Does R-22 Work Exactly? How does R-22 work exactly and how does it end up cooling the air in your home? Let's find out! The Low Down On R-22 How does R-22 work exactly? Some people think that R-22 is the stuff that is blown into your home to cool it down. Unfortunately, (and fortunately due to health reasons!) this is not how it works. Your heating and cooling system is actually a "closed loop system" in that the R-22 in your system should never leak out or need refilled. If you are low on R-22, this means that you have a leak somewhere in your air conditioner and unless it is found and fixed, any new R-22 that you put into it will just leak right back out again.  With this being said, let's get into how R-22 actually works with your air conditioner to cool your home. The R-22 Cycle R-22 is a gas that is actually converted into a liquid when cooled or compressed. Your air conditioner compressor's job is to compress the R-22, making it hot. As the R-22 moves through your air conditioner's coils, it eventually cools down into a liquid form.  Once converted into a liquid, the R-22 absorbs the heat from the warm air at your evaporator coil, and then pushes the cold air out via your blower motor in your furnace and your duct work. Your air conditioner actually also works as a big dehumidifier by removing humidity (water) from your air as...
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My AC Keeps Turning On and Off

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Air Conditioner Keeps Turning On and Off. What's Going On? The weather is hot and your air conditioner can't make it's mind up of whether to run or not. What could be going on? AC Short Cycling The proper term for you air conditioner turning on and then off on a frequent basis is called "short-cycling". This frequent behavior can end up causing you higher than normal electric bills and it's also not good for your air conditioner.  With this being said, let's dive into some reasons for your air conditioner turning on and off so quickly. Low Refrigerant If your air conditioner is low on refrigerant, it could cause short cycling to occur. Having low levels of refrigerant can cause your indoor and outdoor coil to freeze over and then turn off abruptly. If you are low on refrigerant, you have a leak somewhere in your system as your air conditioner is a closed loop system. Refrigerant is not like gas in a car. Unless your leak is fixed, any refrigerant you put in will just leak right back out again. Most leaks can be fixed temporarily, but it is never a permanent fix. Also, the substance used to fix a leak can be hard on your compressor.  Dirty Filters A dirty filter is one of the most common causes for both air conditioner and furnace breakdowns. If you have a standard 1 inch filter, these should be changed every 30 days or sooner if you have a lot of...
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How Does An AC Compressor Work?

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How Does An Air Conditioner Compressor Work? The compressor is one of the most important parts of your air conditioner. What is a compressor? Along with the evaporator coil and condenser that sits outside your home, your air conditioner compressor is one of the most important parts of your air conditioner. The compressors job is to convert low-pressure refrigerant in a gas state into a high-pressure, higher temperature gas prior to entering your condenser. Think of your compressor as the middleman between your condenser and evaporator coil. Without your compressor, your air conditioner would cease to function at all.  How Does The AC Compressor Work? When the R-22 or R410a leaves your evaporator coil inside, it is in a low-pressure state. In order for the refrigerant to be able to release the heat it absorbed from inside your home, it needs to be a higher temp than the outside air. This is where the compressors job comes in. The refrigerant enters your compressor via a suction line and is compressed very tightly together. By compressing the refrigerant, the temperature and pressure of it is raised. This compressed refrigerant leaves the compressor and flows out into the lines that wrap around the condenser. Because heat naturally goes from warm areas to cooler ones, the heat is transferred to the colder outside air. This cools the refrigerant back down and it heads back to your evaporator coil to repeat this process again. Compressor Repairs Compressor repairs and replacements are one of the...
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What Is an AC Capacitor?

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What Is An Air Conditioner Capacitor? A blown capacitor is a common air conditioner breakdown, but what do they even do? Power Storage If you happen to know anything about electronic circuits, you'll know that an air conditioner capacitor is essentially one big battery. The capacitor stores an electric charge and then releases that charge as needed. The capacitor itself is made up of two metal plates and "dielectric material" in between them. When a voltage is created over the two metal plates, an electric field is created and stored inside. The energy stored is measured in "micro-farads". The capacitor also works with the air conditioner's contactor to supply power. Dual Run Capacitor Vs Start Run There are two popular types of capacitors available: dual run and start run. Below are some differences between them.     Dual Run Capacitor Uses charge stored within to boost the current (power) to the compressor and motors. Used to maintain a charge. Measure at approximately 7 to 9 micro farads. The capacitor must be matched to your air conditioner or it will not work properly. A dead capacitor can be the cause of an air conditioner not turning on.    Start Run Capacitor Contains a higher storage than a run capacitor. Usually measures between 70-120 micro farads Provides an extra push to get fan started. Why Do Capacitors Fail? Air conditioner capacitors can fail for a number of different electrical reasons but mostly it's just due to age. Most capacitors are capable of giving...
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R22 vs. R410a Refrigerant: What’s The Difference?

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What's The Difference Between R-22 and R-410a? With R-22 due to be completely unavailable by 2020, R410a is taking over as the new refrigerant of choice. The Beginning of Change The change over of refrigerant from R22 to R410 actually started way back in 1992. Due to some environmental regulations that were put in place, many different countries decided to phase out the use of R-22 and replace it with R410a. R410a is more efficient and environmentally friendly than R-22.  Differences Between R-22 and R410a R-22 Erodes ozone layer of the earth. As of 2010, new air conditioners are not allowed to use R-22. Becoming extremely expensive as it is being phased out. Less efficient at absorbing heat making it less energy efficient. R-410a Used in new air conditioners as of 2010. Much cheaper to obtain than R-22. Better for the environment. Much more efficient at cooling making it more energy efficient. Requires the use of more durable air conditioner parts to work, which means less breakdowns. What This Means To You While R-22 is being phased out, it is still available for purchase in 2019. It is more expensive to obtain however. Don't be shocked to pay $400 or more for a simple R-22 repair in your air conditioner if it needs one. If your air conditioner is older than 10 years and is low on R-22 or needs an R-22 related repair, your best option is to schedule an estimate for a new air conditioner. If you are...
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Symptoms of Air Conditioner Refrigerant Leak

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Does My AC Have A Refrigerant Leak? An air conditioner that is leaking refrigerant can cause major problems in keeping your home cool. Here are some popular signs that your air conditioner may be suffering from a refrigerant leak. Be advised that if your unit is low on refrigerant, it means you have a leak in your system somewhere. Refrigerant does not get used up like gas in a car. Also, it's important to know that R-22 is being phased out and replaced with R410a. R-22 units cannot use R410a, so a new unit is required. As of the year 2020, R-22 will no longer be available for purchase. Warm Air Coming From Air Vents If you feel nothing but warm air coming from your air vents, it could be a sign that your air conditioner is low on or leaking refrigerant. Be sure to check your furnace filter to verify it is clean first. A dirty air filter can restrict air flow and prevent cool air from properly cooling your home.  Water Leaking By Furnace A water leak from your evaporator coil can be a signal of a possible refrigerant leak. Half of your air conditioner (your evaporator coil) sits on top of your furnace. This piece of equipment is cooled by refrigerant. As the warm air from your home flows over it, it is cooled down. If your unit is low on refrigerant, a large amount of condensation can form on this coil and start a water leak....
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Clogged AC Drain Line

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Clogged Condensate Line: What Do I Do? A clogged condensate line can lead to quite the watery mess in your basement. Learn what you can do to stop it! Why Is Water Leaking? A clogged condensate line is a common air conditioner problem that many people have during hot weather. As your air conditioner removes the hot humid air from your home, water condensates on your evaporator coil that sits on top of your furnace. This water is then meant to fall into a condensate pan and then drain into the ground via a condensate drain line. However, sometimes these pans and drain lines can become clogged and you will start to see a puddle of water around your furnace.  Unclogging Your Condensate Drain Line There are a couple different options when it comes to unclogging your AC drain line. The most popular method is using a 50/50 mixture of hot water an vinegar and pouring this down the drain line to clean it out. It make take several tries, but this method will generally clean out small clogs. If you have a larger clog, you may need to resort to other methods such as removing the line itself and removing the clog manually. This can sometimes be done by yourself, but if the drain line clog is in a hard to reach location, it's time to call a professional HVAC company to remove it for you.  Preventing AC Drain Line Clogs Over time, it is normal for drain lines...
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How Much Does It Cost To Run an Air Conditioner?

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How Much Will It Cost Me to Run My Air Conditioner? The weather is hot and you're almost to the point that you don't care how much it costs, but let's take a look! The Cost Equation Although costs can vary, you can generally predict the cost of running your air conditioner by doing a little math! Disclaimer: the following is based on costs for Ohio homes and average electricity costs. If you live in a different state you may need to research your individual costs. Let's assume that you live here in Columbus, Ohio and you want to predict what it will cost to run your air conditioner. Let's say that it's REALLY hot out and your air conditioner runs for 10 hours per day (during a 24 hour period). Right now, the average cost per kilowatt hour of electricity in Columbus, Ohio is about 12.65 cents. Sounds cheap right? Well we have some bigger numbers we are about to throw in the equation. Important Equipment Numbers Needed Air conditioners are powered based on a measure of total amperage. Here's a basic breakdown: 2 Ton AC = 15 amps 3 Ton AC = 18 amps 4 Ton AC = 21 amps Also, we need to note that the standard power plug for an air conditioner is a standard 240 volts. If yours is different, adjust accordingly. Now, we need to calculate the total wattage utilized based on these numbers. So, let's do some math! We will use a standard 3 ton...
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