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What exactly is residential AC maintenance?

How many of you guys test the condensate drain?

If so, how much water are you putting down the drain before you determine that the drain is clear?


  • Steve Garson_2
    Steve Garson_2 Member Posts: 712
    What exactly is residential AC maintenance?

    I have a 2.5 ton Carrier central air system that is five years old. I have never paid for annual maintenance, but this is what I do each year:

    1. Use a hose to wash out all debris and dust in the outdoor coils and fins.

    2. Inspect the exchanger coil in the attic to confirm that it is clean. I used the best 3M Filtrate filters, so the system stays spotless.

    3. I check the drain in the attic to confirm that it is clear.

    Is there anything else that I would be getting if I paid for annual maintenance? I want to save money but I don't want to be foolish.

    Steve from Denver, CO
  • Eugene Silberstein 3
    Eugene Silberstein 3 Member Posts: 1,380
    Good Start but...

    ALl of the things you are doing are definitely working for the good of your system. However, even if you, in addition to what you are already doing, properly lubricate the blower motor, tighten electrical connections, inpect the drive assembly and all the rest, you are still missing the refrigerant side of the system.

    A system that is not operating at its best WILL cool your home, but there are efficiency issues that are often sacrificed. Evaluating the refrigerant charge, metering device, compressor operation and amperage,blower efficiency all play a role in determining HOW WELL The system will provide comfort cooling.

    Evaporator superheat, condenser subcooling & temperature splits are all taken to help ensure that your system is operating as well as it could. Some companies may opt to provide you with a written evaluation of what your system is doing at a particular point in time as far as capacity and efficiency.

    The bottom line is that an improperly system will run and will, for the most part, keep your house cool, but you may very well be paying a lot more $$ to do it.
  • Empire_2
    Empire_2 Member Posts: 2,343
    One more thought

    An A/C system that is under charged, or over charged can dramatically shorten the life of the compressor. It's always nice to save money, But don't step over the dollar to pick up the dime.....

    My .02

    Mike T.
  • Eugene Silberstein 3
    Eugene Silberstein 3 Member Posts: 1,380
    Any others?

    ANy other thoughts on what you include in "residential maintenance"?
  • Empire_2
    Empire_2 Member Posts: 2,343
    In a Nut Shell...

    I address all Preventative Maintenance in 4 categories: Electrical, Ref. check, Air side check, and cleaning of equipment. Most are evaluations and measurements and then in depth if needed if a problem is suspected. The best check of all: Customer check. I always ask what he or she thinks of how the system is running.

    Mike T.
  • Techman
    Techman Member Posts: 2,144

    Customer Check? I like that one, and have just ADDED it to my own list ,Thanks!Also, on my list is checking the cpnmpressor terminal block and the contactor contacts and twisting of the capictor terminals and pressure testing of the hi & lo press safety controls.
  • don_163
    don_163 Member Posts: 67
    Drain lines

    did you say? Man let me tell you a story about drain lines.I had a three story building one time that the drain would keep clogging up.Blew out the drain,pour over four gallon of water in the pan and it all appears to be draining.

    Get a call from the customer three days later that its clogged again.Sure enough the pan full of water in flowing into the emergency pan.

    Now I go looking for the cause and find that the drain line under the house is bowed before it goes outside..u shape if you will.

    Thinking to myself should I cut it or not knowing what going to happen.Yes I cut it and, yes I get three story worth of held up condenste coming down on me.

    So I bet one would think that the weight of the water should
    have push it up and over the hump would you not?

    Just for the record the system had a trap and yes I strap the drain under the house to get it going back down hill.

    However there was still one part of the puzzle missing as to why she did not drain and I had to add one.

    What did I add?
  • Techman
    Techman Member Posts: 2,144

    Morning All.
  • Jeff Lawrence_25
    Jeff Lawrence_25 Member Posts: 746
    Good point, Professor

    I carry a POS wet vac on the van that I use outside the house on the condensate drains where I can. I hook up the vac to the 3/4" line and let her rip. It's amazing what kind of crud gets pulled out of a drain line.

    I also try to put some kind of drain pan tabs into the pans and condensate lines.

    Since Don started it, I'll add one to the list.

    Call from a customer. We had installed a new 12 SEER 3 ton cooling system when their antique GE went out. There were rust stains on the side of the house. We got there and the emergency drain pan was full of water, as was the Tee on the condensate line. Time for the wet vac! We went outside and hooked it up and it started screaming when we turned it on, like it wasn't able to pull the vacuum on the line. We turned it off after about 30 seconds and it had about 1/4 cup of water in it. The helper stayed there and watched the vac while I ran upstairs. No suction at the Tee and it was still full of water. Hmmmmm. The line went nearly straight down into the wall about 25 feet, then ninety'd over about the same. I started shaking the drain line and slamming it up and down. All of the sudden, it opened up. I went back outside and the help was taking the top off of the vac. Something had hit the inside of the vac right as the water started getting sucked out. It was a hickory nut! The owner had problems with squirrels in the attic before and all we could figure was that one had dropped the nut into the line. The old 8(?) SEER AC had generated enough water to block the line or I had moved the nut when I did the evap changeout.

    Ever since then, I do my best to clean out condensate lines.

  • Techman
    Techman Member Posts: 2,144
    Drain Lines?

    Morning All.Hi Don.I like to install clean-out in the drain lines as part of the trap,plus I add an "air break" ,just another "T" open on the top[with a 6" stand pipe}to prevent air/water fighting.I don't know if it works in the real world{in my minds eye it works ] but I've never had a drain problem on 3 story homes or buildings. GOOD LUCK!
    P.S.-That is with a yearly clean-out!
  • Eugene Silberstein 3
    Eugene Silberstein 3 Member Posts: 1,380
    Moral of the story

    "Always check your nuts to avoid taking a bath later"
  • Eugene Silberstein 3
    Eugene Silberstein 3 Member Posts: 1,380

    That's what I was waiting for when I asked about the condensate.
  • D107
    D107 Member Posts: 1,849

    One can never assume installation was done correctly. Had a consultation on my AC. He recommended:

    1-sealing air handler leaks with ul 181 mastic putty, insulate metal junction boxes--where 7" attic flex supply tubes meet ducts going down-- prop up AC tubes from floor so as to remove crimps or bad angles to maintain air flow.

    2-Insulate any part of the system near a chimney with red fire guard sealer.

    3-Check for air leaks at any point in the intake and supply lines and seal.

    4-Check for required air flow from each register and adjust both duct dampers (in attic) and register dampers.

    5-Create either vented attic or unvented, one of the other. Currently I have unvented but since there is no under-eaves insulation, it is not conditioned space. So attic temps very high.

    6- Clean ducts and intake register, etc.

    7-Make sure intake register is sized correctly. (Mine wasn't)

    8-then in winter, seal your intake register with plastic to prevent heat loss or infiltration.


  • Techman
    Techman Member Posts: 2,144

    Excellent! In my direction? The last time I heard that word was from my Dad when I told him I enlisted in Navy[1967]. Good Day!
  • don_156
    don_156 Member Posts: 87
    You hit

    it on the nose Tecman.A much needed vent..Dont forget the
    drain tablets.

    I find many time the reason for clogged drain is because of filter going to long before they are change.
    I have very few drain line problem on system that have a great filtration system.

    Is it summer yet?
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