Air Conditioning Confidential: The View from the Truck

Empire Heating & Air Conditioning Technician Interview

Thanks to cooler temps in the last few days we were able to catch up with a couple of our trusty, hard-working service techs to see how things are going on the front lines of home comfort. We tried to make it easy for them, but as you’ll see, get ‘em started on air conditioning service and they just don’t know when to quit!

Q: What are the top three things customers call about most often during a heat wave like this?

A: OK, here are the ones we get all the time lately:

  • Water leaks: That’s an easy one — it’s just an abundance of condensate. It looks scary but it just means your system is working. A lot. Make sure that water has a place to drain or it could create some other problems due to dripping or pooling.
  • Unit runs all the time and the thermostat is set on 72 but it’s 80 degrees in the house (not good).
  • No cooling. Definitely not good, but not always an expensive repair — read on!

Q: What are the top three situations you encounter on your air conditioning service calls?

A: This has been pretty consistent all over town during the heat wave:

  • Bad run capacitor: causes compressor to overheat and shut off so the unit is running but not cooling. Happily, the typical cost for repair including service call, capacitor, installation and complete system check is $250. We’re proud to say that we use a better grade of capacitor for our typical replacement. Occasionally a specialty capacitor is needed that costs more. Many other outfits charge much more.
  • Unit is iced up: This is due to a dirty filter or evaporator (indoor) coil, and requires new filter or cleaning.
  • Unit overheats: This is due to dirty condenser (outdoor) coil and requires cleaning.

Oh, and one more biggie:

  • Unit is low on R-22 (refrigerant): This is due to leakage, and requires leak search and repair. Often this is very simple and straightforward, but sometimes requires replacement of a major component.

Q: What are three key things you wish customers knew about their AC systems when the weather gets this hot?

A: We’ll try to keep it to three, but here goes:

  • Systems in Atlanta are properly designed to maintain 75 degrees indoors when it’s 92 degrees outdoor. This is based on national weather data. If your home gets a bit warm on the afternoon of a 105 degree day, but cools down overnight, it’s probably OK. Maintaining 20 degrees below the outdoor temperature is within the acceptable industry range. If you were to size a typical unit for 100 degree days in Atlanta it would create an uncomfortably humid indoor environment during milder weather. Two-stage equipment is a good alternative for up-sizing without generating high humidity in mild demand.
  • A service call that is free — if you agree to the repair — is not actually free, they just charge you more for the repair.
  • If you call ten legit companies for air conditioning service during a heat wave and find yourself waitlisted, and then call a guy who says “Sure, I can be there in an hour, ” there might be a reason he’s not busy.

Oh, and this is SO important:

  • If you turned your unit off or it was broken for a day or two during a heat wave, when you turn it on your house could take 24-48 hours to cool down. This is normal. Central air systems are built for continuous operation. As long as the air blowing out of the ducts is about 18 to 22 degrees cooler than the temperature in the space, it’s working.
  • Turning the thermostat down to 55 does not make it cool down to 72 any faster.
  • Running a ceiling fan with the air blowing downward when the AC is on does actually make the air feel cooler.

Can I give you just a few more?

  • Opening the doors and windows when the air is on, or if you plan to run the air the next day, is probably gonna make the unit work harder and take longer to cool down a humid space.
  • Keeping the blinds closed on the south side of the house does actually cut down on the cooling load
  • Ants really do cause problems that result in some very expensive repairs. Keep them away from your unit.

Empire HVAC Recommendations – Decatur, Georgia

So, folks, there you have it. We hope these tips and insights are helpful. If you see your own home comfort issues described here, we encourage you to schedule a service call, especially now while there is a break in the extreme hot weather.