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Adelaide Metro

Common problems with reverse cycle air conditioners

Common problems with reverse cycle air conditioners
October 26, 2015 James Malabad
Common problems with reverse cycle air conditioners

The Reverse Cycle air conditioner is the most popular form of cooling in South Australia, with some 60% of homes using it as their main means of reducing household temperatures.

Unfortunately, heavy use of the reverse cycle air conditioner over winter and summer can put significant strain on your system. A variety of problems can quickly develop, markedly reducing your system’s performance or even causing it to breakdown.

In a worse case scenario, a fault with your reverse-cycle air conditioner can easily start a significant house fire. A major Australian insurer has recently reported that Air conditioners are the most common source of appliance-based house fires.

Below is a list of the things that can go wrong in your air-conditioner, and the effect that those problems will have on your system.

Dust on coils

A simple but very common cause of both cooling and heating problems is dirt and dust getting inside the unit. High levels of dust inside your system could reduce efficiency between 30-50%. Bearing in mind that cooling will form the largest component of your electricity bill this summer; this represents a major financial outgoing.

If dust settles on the condenser coils, it will limit the ability of unit to adsorb heat (from inside your house) and release it outside. Your unit will therefore have to work harder and use more energy to reach the required temperature. Not only will this increase your electricity costs, it puts further strain on other components, increasing the possibility of a major breakdown.

Low Refrigerant

The refrigerant inside your air conditioners coils is responsible for absorbing and releasing heat (in conjunction with other components). If your unit is leaking refrigerant, then capacity of your system to transfer heat is reduced.

Your unit may have to work harder or operate for longer periods to maintain an adequate temperature. This implies high electricity use and a greater risk of faults developing in other components. Lower the levels of refrigerant can have a disproportionate impact on performance i.e. a small amount leaking out could increase electricity use significantly.

Refrigerant leaks can also lead to temperature changes without instruction. Also be aware that many refrigerants are extremely damaging the ozone layer.

Wiring problems (Burning smell)

This likely indicates a (damaged) wiring problem. Turn off the unit of immediately and get it inspected.

Unpleasant Smells

Dirt, mould and bacteria can enter get blown into your air conditioning system. Without regular cleaning, these can build up and cause unpleasant smells to emanate when the unit is operating

Worn Compressor

A worn compressor may have developed due to secondary fault, very heavy use, or just the age of the system. Typically this will mean that your compressor will be less efficient and compressing refrigerant and so will require more energy to perform the same task or will be able to unable to lower the temperature to the desired level.

Increased levels of noise may also follow from a worn/damaged compressor. More serious consequences could include a complete seizure of the compressor (necessitating a very expensive replacement) or even a fire with the air-conditioning unit.

Thermostat Failure

Thermostat failure can lead to inconsistent temperatures or changes without instruction.

Capacitor Failure

Capacitor failure is a common occurrence with Reverse Cycle Air Conditioners. Common problematic areas include capacitors related to the compressor motor, fan motors or the start capacitor (helps jump start the motor when you turn it on).

A faulty or broken capacitor will limit the ability of other components in the unit to work properly (or at all).

Compressor Fan Problems

A lack of servicing, wear and caked debris can lead to problems with the fans inside your unit. Not only will a damaged blower have a reduced ability to disperse cold air inside you home and remove heat from the condenser coil, your fan can become very noisy.

Caked dirt and debris can lead to major maintenance and reliability via unbalancing the fan shaft or increased wear on internal bearings

Operating Pressure Problems

Incorrect systems pressures can substantially increase wear on the compressor, decreasing efficiency and risking significant damage.

Incorrectly sized systems

Homeowners should also be aware that choosing and incorrectly-sized system can lead to performance and operating cost issues. If in doubt, you should always seek help from an Air Care professional.

High electricity bills, especially with newer units, can be due to an incorrectly sized air-conditioner. If your unit is too small, it will have to work extremely hard to maintain the desired temperature. If the unit is too large, then it will frequently short-cycle (compressor frequently turn on and off).

This means that even though the unit is more than capable of cooling the area, it will do so very inefficiently. Short-cycling also has a detrimental effect on system reliability.

Preventing a Summer Air-Care Disaster

With increased use of Reverse-Cycle air conditioners as the temperatures rises, breakdowns become more frequent. During the peak-summer temperatures, you may have to wait days rather than hours for a technician to repair your broken unit.

Protect yourself this summer by getting an Adelaide Metropolitan Accredited Technician to Service your Air Conditioning.