Why Should I Cover My Air Conditioner During The Off Season?


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Air conditioning manufacturers make rugged, high quality products that are designed to withstand the elements i. e. snow, wind, rain, sun, and extreme heat/ cold. However, an air conditioner's filters, coils and fins require regular maintenance for the unit to operate effectively and efficiently throughout its years of service. Unlike the evaporator coil, the condenser coil is exposed to unfiltered outdoor air. Air borne dirt will become lodged in the condenser when the outdoor environment is dusty, or if there is foliage near by. Depending on where you live dirt can build up very quickly. Just about everything that contacts the coil surface can have an insulating effect. Dirt, dust, seeds, bugs, foliage, grease, corrosion, pollution, and even bacteria and other microorganisms can act as an insulating barrier. Anything that touches the coil reduces the heat transfer of unwanted heat from the refrigerant to the outside air.

Air conditioning manufacturers design equipment to achieve the highest SEER level of efficiency using the least amount of refrigerant. The systems are perfectly balanced and anything that affects the heat transfer creates an imbalance which drastically affects performance. A dirty coil reduces heat transfer which causes temperature and pressure of the refrigerant entering the compressor to increases above normal levels. The compressor will than work harder and draw more amps to keep up. The cooling capacity of the system will be greatly reduced and the mechanical components will be significantly stressed. A dirty coil means a higher operating cost, more wear and tear on the compressor and fans, and inadequate cooling.

Coils that have little maintenance performed often become clogged with seeds and dirt over time. If the condenser airflow is restricted on a hot day the compressor head and cylinders will become extremely “hot". The oil will than begin to break down and lose its ability to lubricate causing accelerated wear and allowing contaminants to enter the system. This can cause rings, pistons and cylinders to wear resulting in lower compression, leaking valves, and metal debris in the oil. Once this occurs compressor failure will soon follow. Air conditioners are a closed loop system and changing the oil is not a normal or easy procedure. The oil used in air conditioning systems is extremely resilient but will prematurely break down if the system is not looked after. Imagine trying to drive your car for 10 years without ever changing the oil. When a hermetic compressor fails the only way to fix the system is to replace the compressor. This involves opening the system, having the refrigerant and oil removed, and filter dryers installed to clean up the system of moisture and acid that will be introduced from opening the system and left from the failure. This is a very costly procedure and many systems at this point are not worth fixing.

* The benefits of keeping the coil clean are:

* Equipment operates at a lower temperature and removes more heat.

* You have lower operating amperage, resulting in lower energy costs

* Compressor is operating at maximum efficiency and will operate less

* Equipment will last longer and be more reliable

This is why it is recommended that you keep the coil clean with an air conditioning cover during the off season.

Brian M. Jones, BA, Heating Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Certificate, is a senior partner and Vice President of http://www.brinmar.com and Brinmar Ltd a manufacturer of air conditioner covers & products since 1975.


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