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With Summer Approaching, Is Your Air Conditioner Ready for the Heat Wave?

With Summer Approaching, Is Your Air Conditioner Ready for the Heat Wave?

Fewer than 500,000 people lived in and around the Gulf coast before A/C was invented. Thankfully, air conditioning has made living in these hot, humid, and unforgiving states a reality. Those who have lived there for generations will attest to the importance of A/C upkeep and cost management.

Making sure your air conditioner is ready will prevent expensive repairs. Preventative maintenance is something that you can do before the summer heat arrives. You will save money and time from having to diagnose problems when they happen.

Here are 10 tips on keeping your AC cool and your temperament cooler.

1. Change the Filter

This one is a no-brainer for homeowners with central heat and air. The filter is the lungs of your air conditioner. If you allow it to build up with dust, dirt, and debris, it will make it work harder to cool the house. 

If it gets too bad, your coils will start to get dirty, which traps condensation, leading to them freezing up. Change your filter monthly if you’re using standard fiberglass filters. We recommend investing in more eco-friendly and efficient HEPA filters. 

2. Remove Outside Debris

The outdoor condenser unit can get dirty, damaged, and filled with obstructions quickly. Even if your yard doesn’t have any trees, leaves will find their way into your condenser. As your unit becomes blocked by debris, it runs harder and hotter, causing higher energy usage. 

If things get really bad, you’ll eventually run into parts failing (solenoids are especially susceptible) and potential electrical fire hazard. Do a thorough job of clearing out leaves, twigs, and caked-on dirt with a low-pressure water hose. 

3. Clear Your Vents

This tip is great for overall air quality and cooling efficiency. It’s a dirty job, but someone’s gotta do it. Start by opening your supply vents in each room. 

Make sure none of them are completely closed, as it creates unnecessary pressure on the ducts. This leads to cool air leaking into the attic or underflooring, wasting energy. The added pressure also causes the air handler to work harder.

Clean these vents and watch for potential obstructions, like drapes, rugs, and etc.

4. Clean the Drainage

As the months get hotter, your AC unit “sweats” more. This excess condensation should collect outside and evaporate. That is, as long as there is nothing clogging the drain line. 

You should do regular maintenance on the outside drain to make sure leaves and mud aren’t building up. If your drain does become backed up, water will begin collecting inside your AC closet. There’s a small container that will fill and trigger a switch to automatically shut off the unit.

Use a wet-dry vacuum to suck up any debris on the outside drain and on the inside drain pipe.

5. Check the Refrigerant

While we do not recommend anyone to change their refrigerant, you can check if it’s running low. On the outside condenser unit, there are two copper pipes. The largest of the two is surrounded by insulation, but it should feel cold.

If it doesn’t, then it is running low on coolant. For those with commercial air conditioners, you’re best off having an HVAC professional come to service the coolant.

Locate the two copper lines that run to the condenser unit and identify the larger line, which might have insulation around it. The line should feel cold to the touch or sweat when the A/C runs. If the line feels warm after running the air conditioner, call an HVAC specialist to add coolant.

6. Cover for Winter

Unexpected snowfall can really do a number on your outdoor unit. The snow itself can cause rust and electrical damage if you don’t use a heat pump. AC covers are pretty cheap and easy to install. 

These covers are vital for preventing outside debris from falling into the vents. If you can’t find any covers, a sturdy tarp or piece of plywood will also do.

7. Digital Thermostat

Upgrade your thermostat to a digital, programmable thermostat. This upgrade will save you the most time and money during the summer. If possible, choose a smart thermostat, like the Nest. 

Independent studies have shown a 10-15% reduction on the average bill. That means it pays for itself in less than a year for most people. With a smart thermostat, your air conditioner is ready to adapt to your needs.

8. Brush the Fins

After taking a water hose to the outside AC unit, you’ll need to do a bit of detailing. Find a soft brush, like an old toothbrush or tile brush, and go over the fins. These small metal filters are easily bent, so watch the pressure and angle of your brush strokes.

9. Level Concrete Foundation

With all the debris out of the way, don’t forget the foundation. The concrete slab should be visible all the way around. Clear any growth from around it. 

Worry about aesthetics later, you need to make sure your AC unit is level and sitting unobstructed. If it isn’t level, you’ll need to adjust the slab, add fillers, or replace it altogether. You’re more prone to clogs and debris with an uneven concrete foundation.

10. Check for Gaps

Often overlooked, this last step involves making your home as leak-proof as possible. Older homes are especially bad with keeping the climate in your house stable. Look at window frames, doorways, and attic entryways.

You’ll need to seal any gaps with insulation, caulking, rubber flaps, and etc.

Find Out if Your Air Conditioner is Ready

We know it’s a lot to check off on this maintenance list. Making sure your air conditioner is ready every year takes time and experience. Some of these activities are best left to the professionals.

At Fast AC Service, we handle all maintenance, repair, and install jobs, big or small. We work with commercial and residential clients to ensure safe and efficient HVAC servicing. Contact us today if you’re having any problems or need a more reliable AC when the heatwave hits.

Tips On How to Clean Commercial Ice Machines

Tips On How to Clean Commercial Ice Machines

Commercial ice machines can make hundreds of pounds of ice per day. Very large ice machines are capable of thousands of pounds of ice per day.

But in order to keep that ice coming commercial ice machine cleaning needs to be a priority. Read on for a step-by-step guide to cleaning commercial ice machines.

How Often to Clean Commercial Ice Makers

To keep your ice machine running properly and efficiently, you’ll need to clean it often.

But how often is that? It really depends on your usage and the manufacturer’s recommendations.

Most manufacturers suggest a deep cleaning of the commercial ice maker at least every six months. But you may need to clean it more often based on heavy use.

You’ll also need more frequent ice machine cleaning if you run a pizzeria a bakery or another shop where flour or yeast often floats through the air.

Your commercial ice maker will alert you when it’s time to clean it. Keep an eye out for poor ice quality (either too soft or not clear). Look for shallow or poorly formed cubes.

If the ice machine has a low capacity or is slow to harvest or release, it’s time for deep cleaning. 

Cleaning Commercial Ice Machines

These general steps will help you clean your commercial ice maker. Always read the manufacturer’s instructions for model-specific instructions.

First, dispose of any ice in the unit.

Then clean the machine’s water system. Your instruction manual will explain how to do this for your unit. Expect this step to take about 20 minutes.

Once this is done, unplug the ice machine. Take the ice maker apart so you can clean the individual parts.

Next, inspect the air filters. You can typically find a chart in the manual that explains how much cleaning solution to mix with water to clean the filters.

Clean all the removable parts with a cleaning solution. Then clean the surfaces such as the base, the sides, and evaporator plastic parts.

Don’t be alarmed if the cleaning solution foams. That means there is some kind of mineral deposit on the unit. 

Once it stops foaming, use a cloth to scrub those areas. Then rinse the individual parts with clean water.

Now, check the machine’s filtration system for even pressure. Then inspect the sensors, hoses, pump, cube sizing controls and thermistors.

If any of these don’t look right, request a commercial refrigeration service appointment. 

Clean the Condenser

Just like with the filter, it is vital that you clean the condenser at least every six months. 

When the condenser is dirty, air can’t circulate well. This leads to less ice, higher operating temperatures and ultimately, a shorter lifespan on your unit. 

First, make sure the power is off to the ice machine as well as the remote condensing unit.

Next, check for dirt by pointing a flashlight at the fins of the condenser. You can clean this by blowing air through the condenser hose.

Or you can rinse it with water starting from the inside. If there is still dirt after you’ve done these steps, you’ll need to make an appointment to have your unit serviced.

Once the commercial ice maker is clean, you can then sanitize it.

Sanitize Your Ice Machine

Now that your ice machine is clean, you’ll need to sanitize it. Use the sanitizing solution and lukewarm water according to the directions on the package.

Sanitize all the individual parts you’ve removed from your ice machine. Use a spray bottle to soak the parts or immerse the parts in a sink full of solution and water. Let the parts soak in the solution for a few minutes.

While those parts are soaking, use the sanitizing solution to clean all the surfaces of the machine. Be generous when applying the solution.

Once you’re done, you can replace all the components. You do not need to rinse these with water! 

Set a timer for 20 minutes and wait. When the timer beeps, plug in the ice machine and turn it on. 

Push the “clean” or “wash” button on your ice machine. The display should tell you when it’s time to add the sanitizing solution to the water trough.

Set your machine to make ice after the sanitizing cycle finishes. It may take over 20 minutes.

Throw out the first batch of ice and run another cycle. Check the freeze and harvest cycle times to ensure the ice machine is working well. 

How to Clean the Exterior of Your Machine

The outside of your commercial ice machine can be cleaned as often as necessary. If your kitchen has a lot of grease and flour, the outside of your ice maker will need cleaning much more often.

Cleaning the outside of your commercial ice maker is simple. All you need to do is wipe down the surfaces with a warm damp cloth. This will remove dust and dirt.

If the exterior of your unit has stubborn grease, use a soapy dish rag to wipe the grease away.

Make sure you don’t use any abrasive scrubbing cloths or brushes on the exterior of your machine. Check your machine’s manual for the recommended cleaners you can use. 

You should never use cleaners that have citrus, chlorine or abrasive ingredients on the panels or plastic trim.

Final Thoughts on Cleaning Commerical Ice Machines

Thanks for reading! We hope these step-by-step instructions for cleaning commercial ice machines help you keep your unit in tip-top condition.

Remember, proper maintenance will keep your unit running well. It will also extend the lifespan of your ice maker.

If you run into any concerns while you clean your ice machine, contact us. At Comfort Time Heating and Cooling we pride ourselves on giving you great service so that you refer us to all your family and friends.

The Most Common HVAC Problems

The Most Common HVAC Problems

Many homeowners are not aware that their HVAC systems require annual inspections and tune-ups. Skimping on these services increases the likelihood that your HVAC system will have trouble operating. HVAC problems also might occur as your system nears the end of its 15 to 25-year lifespan.

Is your home experiencing uneven heating or cooling, or is your unit making strange sounds? Troubleshooting HVAC problems can help you determine if you can repair it on your own. If not, you should rely on a professional team of HVAC service technicians to do the job for you.

Here are the most common HVAC problems homeowners face, and what you can do to handle them.

1. The Condenser Unit is Blocked

HVAC airflow problems typically occur when the condenser unit is blocked, jammed, or otherwise obstructed. This device is located outside your home and uses a motorized fan to move air throughout the system.

But since this unit is located outside, it’s one of the most vulnerable components of any HVAC system.

If your HVAC is struggling to regulate the temperature of your home, your best bet is to check the condenser unit. Look for leaves, dirt, and other debris that may be blocking the device. During winter, it’s a good idea to check the unit for ice buildup, which can also jam the condenser’s airflow.

2. Has Your Air Filter Been Replaced?

Did you know that your HVAC’s filter is a necessary component? Most people maintain their HVAC filters because it improves the air quality of their home. However, the filter plays an important role in preventing your system from clogging.

An air filter should be replaced every one to three months, depending on your model and allergies. If you forget to replace the filter or choose not to, air contaminants will damage your system and restrict airflow.

3. Liquids Are Leaking From the HVAC

When your air conditioning unit isn’t blowing cold air, the first thing you should do is look for leaks. Refrigerants are an important component inside your device, responsible for chilling the air inside your home. As the liquid refrigerant leaks from your unit, its cooling performance will gradually decline.

But your AC may be leaking more than refrigerant. Water condenses in the system as part of the heating or cooling process. Normally this water is drained, but the lines are susceptible to cracks or clogs. If you spot a leak in your system and noticed reduced AC airflow, you should contact an HVAC technician.

4. Maybe It’s the Thermostat

Remember that your HVAC doesn’t work alone. When your system is running at odd times — or not at all — your thermostat may be the culprit. A typical thermostat has a lifespan of about ten years, so it’ll likely need a replacement before your HVAC system.

If the timing of your heater or AC is on the fritz, but the airflow and air temperature seem to be fine, take a look at your thermostat. The problem may be that your thermostat needs its batteries replaced. Change the temperature setting of your thermostat to see if it’s properly activating your HVAC system.

5. Your Condenser Coil is Filthy

A condenser coil resides within your outdoor condenser unit. This piece is responsible for dissipating heat from your home. Just like the unit itself, dirt and grime can gather on the coil and impact its performance. This is especially troubling since the condenser coil will run dangerously hot.

You can clean the condenser coil by disconnecting your condenser unit from the power and disabling your HVAC system. Once done, you can hose it off. Since this could damage your system, it’s best to leave the work to a trained HVAC professional.

6. HVAC Problems Come With Strange Noises

An HVAC system is one of the noisiest devices in your home. Thankfully, this means that when HVAC problems occur, you can usually hear them. If anything sounds different about your system, it’s time to troubleshoot the cause.

Squealing often occurs in failing fans and blowers. When belts snap or come loose, you may hear clanking or rattling in the heart of your system. These are some of the most worrying noises that definitely require a professional inspection.

Noises such as hums or whistling tend to be minor HVAC problems, usually related to debris. If you can’t detect the debris or cause, you should also opt for an inspection before the problem becomes worse.

When your HVAC acts up often, it may be time to replace the AC unit completely.

7. Clogged Ductwork Causes Unbalanced Temperatures

Clogged ducts hamper your system’s airflow. It may just be dust buildup, but sometimes insects and other pests make their homes in your ductwork. Cracks in old ducts could also be hampering the effectiveness of your HVAC system.

If the temperature is not consistent across the rooms of your house, your ducts may be to blame. Take a brief look at your ductwork and inspect it for blockages or holes, or have an inspector do the job for you.

8. Reduced Airflow? Could Be the Blower Fan

Responsible for circulating air throughout your ducts, the blower fan is a susceptible piece of equipment. It’s the main reason why you want to keep your air filter maintained.

Even with good air quality, dust can still accumulate on your fan as years go by. Cleaning a blower fan can be hard work, and it’s a job best left to professionals.

When It Comes to Your HVAC, Don’t Wait

Every homeowner encounters HVAC problems from time to time. The damage — and repair costs — will worsen until they’re repaired. If you’re having difficulty troubleshooting or repairing it yourself, trust in your local HVAC professionals.

Our service technicians have been serving the Santa Fe area for over ten years. Contact us by phone or email to set up your HVAC inspection or repair.