What is A/C tubing insulation and what happens when it gets damaged?
What is this torn black pipe?
That torn black thing is actually tubing insulation often called by the brand name “Armaflex” in the trade. Usually you will find it torn or damaged near the outside portion of an air conditioning unit. This is often do to a combination of sun damage and / or damage from lawn implements such as weed eaters and edgers.
The insulation on most system types covers the large refrigerant line that is traveling back to the compressor called the “Suction line”. This refrigerant line carries cool, vaporized refrigerant back from the indoor unit and this low temperature vapor helps to keep the compressor cool and running properly. On a “heat pump” system this line can also turn into into a hot gas line during the heating season. This means that the what was previously a cool line carrying refrigerant from inside out it is now a VERY HOT line carrying high pressure vapor from out to in.
The good news is that the small section of tubing insulation that is exposed outside actually has very little effect on the operation of your system overall, however there is a small operational toll that can affect the compressor over time in an air conditioner.
On a heat pump the insulation also serves to prevent an unwitting victim from receiving a burn as well as protects and wires that happen to be touching the line from melting.
At Kalos when we install a new system we coat the lines with a manufacturer recommended UV coating. this white coating not makes the lines outside look a little nicer, it also protects the lines from damaging sunlight.
If your line insulation is torn or damaged it is certainly no emergency, you may want to ask your service provider about replacing it on their next scheduled A/C maintenance visit.
If you are interested in an A/C upgrade you can fill our the form below or call us at 352-243-7088 for any of your repair, maintenance or replacement needs.
If you own a home with an HVAC (Heating, Ventilating and Air Conditioning) system you have very likely had a capacitor issue at some point. In the video, Kalos Co-Owner Bryan Orr talks about what a capacitor is, what they look like, what they do, how to read them and why they fail (hint: we aren’t really sure)
Capacitor Video Transcript
Hi I’m Bryan Orr. I’m one of the co-founders and co-owners of Kalos Services. We’re an HVAC electrical and construction company in central Florida. Actually out of Clermont which is in west side of town. We’re not that far from Disney World. One of the most common questions that I get … In fact, one of the most common questions that I find myself asking is why do capacitors on air conditioners fail so often? That’s the question. Why do they fail so often?
First off, this is a capacitor. This is the top, you got three terminals. This is what’s known as a dual run capacitor. Not to be confused with smaller capacitors that are on electronics boards and then also even in an air conditioner you’ll have what’s called a start capacitor which is generally black and it’s a plastic coded capacitor of a much higher rating.
The difference between a run and a start capacitor is a run capacitor is actually in the circuit at all times. Every time the motor is running. A motor that requires a run capacitor in an AC. Those motors are known as permanent split capacitor motors. Tech talk, all that really means is this is always in the circuit. If this capacitor fails, what will often happen is the motor either won’t start, it will run backwards, it will run hot, it will run inefficient. It just depends on the type of motor and how much load it’s under.
A dual capacitor, what’s up with a dual capacitor. It has 2 features. That’s why it’s a dual capacitor. It has your common terminal here, which is the common point between the 2 halves of the capacitor. You have the fan terminal here which is where the outdoor fan connects. Then you have the HERM which is kind of a funny name, it’s kind of an old school name. It means herm for hermetic compressor. That just means a sealed compressor. That’s the big pump in your air conditioner on the outside.
When these fail, basically the system stops working. Not only that, it can cause damage to the motors that it’s connected to when it fails because those motors run very hot and keep going out on thermal overload every time it fails. Again, this is a dual run capacitor. This type of capacitor is in your air conditioner on the outside. These are the kind that most often fail. They’re 2 in 1, two capacitors in one. You also will have capacitors often on your inside unit on your blower motor as well. Those fail less often but they do sometimes fail and they’re a little bit smaller.
Let’s talk about how these are rated. I know this is a little technical but it you’re looking for a capacitor, you’re wondering what’s up with your capacitor. I want to teach you how to read the nomenclature on this. If you look here, you’ll see it says 40×7.5 MFD. This is something that will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. Some of them will say MFD some will say MF and some will just have a omega symbol. Which is a Greek symbol that looks like an upside down U. What this means is 40 MifroFarad and 7.5 MicroFarad. The smaller of the 2 numbers is the MicroFarad rating of the fan capacitor and the larger of the 2 numbers is the MicroFarad rating of the big capacitor for the compressor. This means that your motor on the outside is running on a 7.5 MicroFarad capacitor and the compressor is running on a 40 MicroFarad capacitor. MicroFarads, that is how you rate a capacitor. There’s no other way to rate the actual capacity of a capacitor other than MicroFarads.
This next part is where a lot of people will get confused because it lists a voltage rating here. 370 or 440 VAC or volts AC. A lot of people will say but my air conditioner’s only 240 volts or 120 volts or some people call it 110 or whatever. That’s not what this means. This doesn’t mean that this is the voltage that this runs on. This is the voltage at which the capacitor breaks down. Now funny things just started happening because for years manufacturers were installing 370 volt rated capacitors and the replacement market was using 440 volt capacitors. This means the maximum voltage that the dielectric fluid will actually be bridged. Or I should say the minimum voltage at which the dielectric fluid inside will be bridged.
Here’s the point. That number means the maximum voltage that it can handle. A 440 VAC capacitor or a 440 V capacitor is better than a 370. The problem is people kept getting confused because if they had a 370 they would want to replace it with a 370. This manufacturer says 370 or 440 and they do that just to eliminate confusion from consumers primarily who think, oh my gosh my service company put in the wrong capacitor because the voltage says something different. They started putting both on their just to ease people’s minds. Truthfully, if it’s a 370 or 440 it’s actually a 440 and that’s good. Over here it says hertz. That’s the cycle rate. That means it says 50 or 60 and that means that it can work in US or Europe.
What you really need to know, what it comes down to is … What you really need to know is the MicroFarads on your capacitor. Given this is a dual, that means that the MicroFarad rating between C and herm is 40 and the MicroFarad rating between C and fan is 7.5 because again this is 2 capacitors in one.
Now to get to the real question that you’re asking. Why do they fail? I don’t have an answer to that question. When I first started in the trade 16 years ago as a technician. It was very rare that you would see capacitors fail. When I say very rare it was as common as a contactor failing or a relay or any other of the devices in an air conditioner. Now a days, capacitors fail at an extremely high rate compared to other components. The only thing I can say is that they must be being manufactured differently. The manufacturers who make these capacitors. I’m not talking about the equipment manufacturers because the equipment manufacturers, they don’t make their own capacitors. They’re buying them from other people. The manufacturers of the capacitors themselves, they’re just not making them like they used to. I know that sounds really weird. In fact I usually criticize people for that. This is based on real fact that I’ve seen. Is that these are just failing more than they used to.
Now, here’s the good news. We use largely this brand which is an American manufacture brand. We use a couple brands but this is the most common that we use. We’re always looking at replacing the 440 volt capacitors which hold out better. We’re usually whenever possible, using this American made brand here. We’re seeing much lower fail rates on these capacitors than we’re seeing on other brands. Still not perfect but much better than what we see otherwise. Even a few manufacturers are starting to go to using this brand in their systems. When they do we see them drop. By in large, most manufactures are still using capacitors that have high fail rates. This isn’t one brand over another. It’s not like Trane is better than Carrier or Lennox is better than Trane. They’re all using capacitors that seem to have fairly high fail rates.
One thing that an old timer used to tell me. I don’t know if this is … I can’t prove whether or not this is true. He told me that these are designed to be installed upright and so that when people install them on their side or upside down that that increases the fail rate. I have no way of knowing whether or not that’s true. I’ve never scientifically tested that. Ever since he told me that I always try to make sure that these are mounted upright whenever possible.
Another thing that will come up is people will look at different ones, different capacitors and they’ll be different physical sizes. That doesn’t mean anything as far as I can tell. It’s just the physical size of the casing that they put the plates in. What’s going on inside here. There’s actually oil that’s … I think it used to be castor oil, I’m not sure if it still is, I think it might be. Let’s see here if it says. It doesn’t say on this one. There’s oil inside here and there’s some plates that basically wrap around in here and what happens is this just stores a charge. That’s what it’s designed to do. It helps get a motor started and running and efficiently and in the right direction. Not to get to hyper technical on how it works.
What happens when they fail is that for some reason the charge bridges those plates or bridges the dielectric fluid and it causes it to fail. Generally speaking when these fail what you’ll find is the top here, instead of it being flat like it is here. It’ll actually bubble up and that’s by design. The top is actually the thinnest metal on the entire thing so the rest of this metal is very thick heavy gauge metal. On the top it’s a little bit thinner so if it over heats or if that dielectric fluid is bridged, this top gives and bubbles up. It’s basically so the thing doesn’t explode. It gives in one direction. If you ever see a capacitor like this where instead of the top being flat it’s bubbled. That’s an indication that it’s failed.
That’s pretty much it. In order to test them either you can see that it’s bubbled or in the case that you suspect that it’s weak. You should really use a meter that has a MicroFarad gauge on it. There are ways to test them while the system is running. In most cases you’re testing them because the system is not running, the compressor or motor are not running so that’s why you would use a meter, a multi-meter that has a MicroFarad gauge on it.
Ultimately, the question being asked is why do they fail? I don’t have an answer. We’re in Florida. That’s the market that I know. Florida hasn’t gotten any hotter than it used to be. A lot of people say it’s heat but that hasn’t really changed. Some people will attribute it to electrical power inconsistencies. I haven’t found that the electrical power is anymore inconsistent now than it was when I first started in the trade 16 years ago. But we certainly do see a lot more failures. Hopefully it’s something that the industry of capacitor manufacturers will get on top of. In the meantime this little component here can cause a little bit of trouble with your AC. We’re the guys you can call to help take care of it with the least hassle and making sure that the systems working good and everything else. When we do run into one of these we replace it but not only do we replace it we make sure to check all the connections that there’s nothing that could cause it to fail. Test the entire system, check [inaudible 00:09:57] charge, go through everything to make sure everything’s working properly so you don’t have any further issues, heaven forbid.
Thank you for watching this again it’s Kalos Services. If you want to ever call us, you can call us at 352-243-7088 or visit us online at Kalos, K-A-L-O-S Florida.com, that’s kalosflorida.com. I’m Bryan Orr thanks for watching.
Need Help With a Capacitor in Clermont, Orlando, Winter Garden, Kissimmee, Leesburg, The Villages or Windermere? Call us at 352-243-7088 or fill out this form.
Have you ever noticed that it’s often hotter upstairs than it is downstairs? No, it’s not just your house, and it’s (probably) not your last contractor’s fault. It’s simple the result of stack effect, which is a fancy way of saying that hot air rises.
Why Not Adjust How Air Conditioning Units are Built?
So we know why stack effect makes the upstairs hotter—can’t we just design an air conditioner system that combats this by pumping more cold air upstairs and keeping it cooler? No. Here’s why: hot air rises not only in the summer, but also in the winter. If you’re running the heat, with hot air rising in addition to the extra hot air you’re pumping upstairs, can you imagine how miserably, blazing hot that would be? Not only that, it’s going to be too cold downstairs.
Is There an Actual, Plausible Solution?
An A/C unit that pumps more air into the upstairs is out as a solution to a too warm upstairs in your house. There are other plausible solutions, but each lack practicality in their own way.
These solutions include:
Having two air conditioning units. That’s right, two A/C units in one house; one would serve only the upstairs, and one would only serve the downstairs. This is possible, but the downside is that you’re now looking at the cost of two AC units. This means the bill and expense of running both, along with the maintenance and upkeep that will continue to cost even after the investment of having it installed. For many, the cost keeps it from being a practical solution.
Installing a zoning system. A zoning system is a system that has what are essentially two different types of valves called dampers and actuators that can either shut off or turn on air to different spaces within a house. The problem here: zoning systems don’t work very well, with a few very expensive, high end options. When sectioning off air to certain areas, you can put too much air in too little space, which can cause system inefficiency and freezing. Like a separate AC unit, it’s a whole extra unit that needs maintenance and can cause problems—and it doesn’t work well enough to warrant it. They can also be very loud, meaning you’re trading heat for a headache.
Utilizing a ductless solution. Ductless systems are incredibly efficient, so this is my personal favorite in our solution list. As you can imagine, they don’t require any ductwork, so it’s just a matter of running a small line set outside, allowing you to repurpose air into other places. The only real downside here is that it can put stress on the existing system, and it can be expensive to install.
Find the Option That’s Best for You
It’s hard to beat physics, and it’s harder to beat stack effect. The answer to the question “why aren’t air conditioning units designed to solve this warm upstairs problem” is simple: there is no easy way to design them differently, at least not when it comes to addressing this particular problem. There’s a trade off no matter what you choose, and with many of the options requiring extra cost, maintenance, and upkeep, plenty of homeowners will settle for the upstairs being a little warm.
Do you have questions? We can help! Fill out the form below:
It was a tough year for homeowners with sunrooms in The Villages who you wanted to make them comfortable. Marion County initiated an action that brought into question a long held exemption to the Florida Energy code that allowed class three sunrooms to be conditioned under a dehumidifier exemption.
While Sumter County did not necessarily agree with this new interpretation they were forced to comply with the decision by the State licensing board that required all new A/C installations in sunrooms to be in class 4 or class 5 sunrooms. The result was a huge expense to homeowners in The Villages if they wanted to make their class three sunrooms livable.
Ductless A/C System Installations
In the last few weeks we got some excellent news from Sumter County. Mitsubishi ductless in conjunction with local contractors like Kalos Services have come up with a new way to meet the dehumidifier exemption. Mitsubishi is manufacturing a module that allows the system to be solely controlled by a dehumidistat mounted adjacent to the unit. This means that ductless A/C systems can now once again be installed in compliance with Sumter County requirements if this special module and the dehumidistat are properly installed.
At Kalos Services we have been Mitsubishi Diamond level contractors for over 7 years (longer than anyone else in the area). This means that we are qualified to look at your particular situation and advise you on the best solution for your particular lanai, porch or sunroom.
Give us a call at 352-243-7088 or fill out the form below so we can get you a solution with zero headaches or pressure.