Kickstart Capacitor and Potential Relay

Bob said good things about the Kickstart.   Bob is sort of a Luddite as far as the internet goes so I’ll have to clarify for people of the internet what a Kickstart is.  I has nothing to do with Kickstarter.com.  Anyhoo, the Kickstart gives your compressor an extra kick to get it started making it last longer and making it more energy efficient.  For repair people it is a great way to help an ailing compressor last a bit longer but it also can be put into a functional system to make it last longer.  It’s easy to put in so long as you are familiar with what goes where inside of the condenser.  If what goes on inside is a mystery to you, you’ll probably want to have someone else install one.  The run cap in the system can pack quite a kick if it is not properly discharged.  The Kickstart comes in a few different sizes for different ton ratings and is a reasonably priced part.  I love the idea of giving extra life to my compressor and was excited to learn about this part.

Compressor are the heart of your air conditioning

The A/C unit outside of your house is called the condenser.  Inside of it are a couple of things:  The condenser coil and the hermetically sealed compressor.  The compressor’s job is to pump refrigerant through the system and raise the pressure in the condenser coil.  Without it, there would be no refrigeration or air conditioning.  I took my condenser apart for a good cleaning of the condenser coils and found out that my compressor was made by Copeland and was a scroll compressor which according to the instructor, Bob, had a longer life than other hermetically sealed compressors.    The main difference between regular and scroll compressors is the lack of pistons in the scroll compressor.  Instead it has a scroll wheel inside of it which uses centrifugal force to compress the refrigerant.  I was excited to find it in my condenser because I had no idea what was in there at all.  Perhaps it will last a little longer than I expected and replacement of my unit wont be for at least a few more years!

Clean Your Condenser Coil

I always knew that it was important to clean my condenser coil.  Well, I shouldn’t say I always knew.  I realized  it was important when an A/C guy came over to fix my broken system and took a one second look over it and said the condenser coil was 90% clogged with the fluff from the dryer vent.  That dryer vent had been strategically placed by the home builder to nearly directly pump fluff into the condenser and it was doomed to fail.  After that point I always knew that should clean out my condenser coil.

Air is sucked through the coil of your condenser by the condenser fan at the top and along with the air comes other stuff in the air.  In my case it was dryer vent fluff.  This stuff gets stuck in the coil and prevents air from flowing through the coil.  Why does it matter?  The refrigerant in the coil needs to cool off.  When the refrigerant goes through the condenser it starts out as a gas and as it passes through the coil it cools down and turns into a liquid.  If it can’t cool down it can’t turn into a liquid and hasn’t released it’s heat and if it hasn’t done that than God help you.  It needs to be a liquid before it goes to your inside coil.  This means that it is not doing its job of moving heat from the inside to the outside.  Once you have cleaned off the fluff from the condenser it is able to release the heat from the refrigerant outside and work properly again.  I used a brush to scrape the fluff off and then I shut off the power and took the fan out of the top and sprayed water through the coil from the inside with a little soap.  I don’t know if that did anything more but at least it made me feel like I was making it cleaner.

PTC Relays Don’t Work in Texas

PTC relays, common on many condenser units, just don’t work in Texas.  The big Texas heat is just too much for the heat sensitive solid state relay.  The PTC relay works by heating up and cutting off the start winding in the compressor or at least cuts out the start capacitor if the system has a run capacitor too.  The problem is that it doesn’t cool off enough to be ready to restart the compressor when it comes time start up the system to cool down the house again in 20 minutes on a hot August day.  This causes the system to try and start without the start winding at full power which does not work so well.  It was suggested by the teachers in the HVAC program at ACC that replacing the PTC relay with a potential relay would be a good idea that would work as expected because it wasn’t dependent on the weather being mild like so much of the rest of the country.  It seemed like sound advice and when cleaning the condenser coil on my house I took stock of the lack of a PTC relay.

Warranty work is annoying when dealing with PTCs.  One of the problems that arises is that warranty repairs often have to be done using OEM parts.  So if the condenser that you are repairing is under warranty the manufacturer will probably won’t allow you to replace the PTC relay with something else.  So, if the PTC is responsible for the demise of the compressor and you have to replace it without changing the PTC out it might very well happen again.  It must be terribly annoying to do warranty work!  You’d have to constantly be explaining to customers that the system they just paid an arm and a leg for has a flaw that you can’t fix unless they pay to do something that might void the warranty.  Wow, that sounds awful!

Bob Seems to Know Everything

It’s been about eight weeks now.  Eight weeks of attending the HVAC program at Austin Community College.  At first I wasn’t sure what to think.  The last time I was in college it was a little more of a hopeful group of students.  Younger, smarter, but seemingly no wiser.  This time around it feels a little less optimistic and more that this is the last hope for the people in the class to find a career.  Despite my impression of the other students I remained optimistic and excited about air conditioning and refrigeration and am over joyed at the prospect of learning this amazing technology.  I’ve been very impressed with my  teacher, Bob, who seems to be a treasure trove of air conditioning wisdom and has not been stumped by any or my many questions.  He does however assume that questions that I ask are like everyone else’s and proceeds to answer what he thought I asked instead of what I  actually asked.  After rephrasing the question he does answer my original question satisfactorily.  Most of questions are asked because I want to really understand the subject and I ask questions that often times would break the refrigeration system if actually put into practice.  I think this is where he gets confused and assumes that I am asking a simpler,  more elementary question, which he then answers.  After clarifying he answers my system breaking question and he might be catching on to how my brain works:  I have to break something to understand it and fix it.   If I know what will break it I can figure out what will fix it.

I Love Air Conditioning!

Back in August of 2016 my air conditioning in my office broke and I called the A/C guy to fix it.  It turned out that he didn’t work on this type of air conditioning and would have to get back to me with recommendations of people who would work on this type of machine.  I scratched my head and looked at the machine and wondered to myself, “What makes this machine different than the big machine at my house?”  What indeed?!  I did a little digging and found out that you could get diagnostic codes from the machine itself that would tell you what the problem was.  The error code it gave me made any sense so I called the company help line and a gruff, annoyed sounding guy took the error code, thought for one second flat and said it was easily solved with what seemed like a random stream of button pushes.  But it worked!  But I didn’t understand how and that troubled me.  How had he made it work?  Later that day I ordered a 20-year-old college heating and air conditioning book from Amazon $8 and I was hooked.  Apparently, I love air conditioning!