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How to Buy, Diagnose, Repair Air Conditioners & Heat Pumps:
This air conditioner & heat pump inspection, installation, diagnosis & repair article series explains in detail the inspection, troubleshooting diagnosis, and repair of all types of residential and light commercial central air conditioning and heat pump systems.
Page top image & air conditioning schematic drawing below were provided courtesy Carson Dunlop Associates. SRPSKI PREVOD nad današji stranica [Serbian translation of air conditioning diagnosis and repair articles]
What are the Parts of an Air Conditioning or Heat Pump System & How do Air Conditioners & Heat Pumps Work?
The purchase, installation, inspection, diagnosis, & repair of residential and commercial air conditioning (A/C) & heat pump systems are described in this InspectApedia.com article series.
To find what you need quickly, if you don't want to scroll through this index you are welcome to use the page top or bottom SEARCH BOX to search InspectApedia for specific articles and information.
Photo: a frost-blocked cooling coil in the air handler of an air condtioning system will stop the delivery of cool air to the building. [Click to enlarge any image]
If your air conditioner or heat pump system is not working, start at LOST COOLING CAPACITY for help in diagnosing and repairing the trouble.
Let's introduce the most basic concepts of air conditioning first:
Just below is a simple explanation of how an air conditioning system works, with enough detail so that it isn't simply magic (the schematic of an air conditioner shown at page top is compliments of Carson Dunlop Associates - a Toronto home inspection, report writing system & education company.
A air conditioning or heat pump compressor which compresses low pressure refrigerant gas into a high pressure, high temperature gas. Usually the compressor is in the outdoor portion of an air conditioning or heat pump system.
The air conditioner or heat pump compressor unit is basically a high pressure pump driven by an electric motor. The air conditioning compressor is usually packaged in the outdoor compressor/condenser unit illustrated by our page top drawing. You won't see the actual motor - it is inside the compressor/condenser unit shown in the photo below.
A condenser or condensing unit: typically a condensing coil inside which high temperature high pressure refrigerant gas flows, and over which a fan blows air to cool the refrigerant gas back to a liquid state (thus transferring heat from the refrigerant gas to the air being blown by the fan).
The condenser unit is basically a coil of finned tubing and a fan to blow air across the coil. Usually the condenser unit is in the outdoor portion of an air conditioning system, often packaged along with the compressor motor discussed above.
See COMPRESSOR CONDENSER and see our page top sketch too. The change of state of the refrigerant, from hot high pressure gas to a liquid releases heat, including heat collected inside the building) to the outdoors.
A metering device which dispenses liquid refrigerant into an evaporator coil. The metering device may be simply a thin section of tubing (a capillary or "cap" tube) or it may be a bit more sophisticated thermostatic expansion valve (TEV) which includes a temperature sensing control that can open and shut the device against refrigerant flow.
An evaporator coil or cooling coil: typically the cooling coil is a section of finned tubing (it looks a lot like a car radiator) into which liquid refrigerant is metered and permitted to evaporate from liquid to gas state inside the coil.
This state change of the refrigerant, from liquid to gas, absorbs heat, cooling the evaporator coil surface and thus cooling indoor air blown across the cooling coil. Usually the cooling coil is located inside the air handler.
A duct system which distributes conditioned air from the air handler in to the occupied space (supply ducts), and which takes air from the occupied space and returns it to the cooling system air handler.
Heat Pump Systems use the same components we have described just above, with the addition of a REVERSING VALVE on HEAT PUMPSthat in essence permits the system to run "backwards" in cold weather.
Split system air conditioners and heat pumps (indoor unit shown in our photo) dispense with a duct system. The wall unit combines a heating or cooling coil and a blower fan to move conditioned air into the room.
In air conditioning mode the heat pump is moving heat from inside the building to outdoors while in heating mode the heat pump is moving heat from outdoor air (or water in some designs) to the building interior.
Because the ability of a heat pump to extract heat from outdoor air diminishes at low outdoor temperatures, heat pump systems in northern climates also include a backup or auxiliary heating system.
Details of how heat pumps work, are inspected, diagnosed, and repaired begin at HEAT PUMPS.
Air conditioner controls and features, which include a room thermostat, electrical switches, fuses or circuit breakers, condensate handling system, and air filters.
For more photographs of these various air conditioning and heat pump parts, and for an explanation of where these air conditioning components are physically located, see A/C COMPONENTS which discusses and helps you name and recognize various Indoor A/C Components and Outdoor A/C Components
HVAC Service Technician Licensing
Heating, air-conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers are required to be licensed by some States and localities. Requirements for licensure vary greatly, but all States or localities that require a license have a test that must be passed.
The contents of these tests vary by State or locality, with some requiring extensive knowledge of electrical codes and others focusing more on HVACR-specific knowledge. Completion of an apprenticeship program or 2 to 5 years of experience are also common requirements.
Our photo shows an HVAC repair technician disassembling and cleaning a wall-convector unit in a New York City apartment.
In addition, all technicians who purchase or work with refrigerants must be certified in their proper handling. To become certified to purchase and handle refrigerants, technicians must pass a written examination specific to the type of work in which they specialize.
The three possible areas of certification are:
Type I—servicing small appliances;
Type II—high-pressure refrigerants; and
Type III—low-pressure refrigerants. Exams are administered by organizations approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, such as trade schools, unions, contractor associations, or building groups.
Use the "Click to Show or Hide FAQs" link just above to see recently-posted questions, comments, replies, try the search box just below, or if you prefer, post a question or comment in the Comments box below and we will respond promptly.
 "Air Conditioning & Refrigeration I & II", BOCES Education, Warren Hilliard (instructor), Poughkeepsie, New York, May - July 1982, [classroom notes from air conditioning and refrigeration maintenance and repair course attended by the website author]
 Thanks to Mark Cramer, Tampa Florida, for assistance in technical review of the "Critical Defects" section and for the photograph of the deteriorating gray Owens Corning flex duct in a hot attic. Mr. Cramer is a Florida home inspector and home inspection educator.
 Thanks to Jon Bolton, an ASHI, FABI, and otherwise certified Florida home inspector who provided photos of failing Goodman gray flex duct in a hot attic.
 Thanks to Scott at SJM Inspect for suggesting this EPA document and for technical editing remarks regarding our air conditioning website, SJM Inspection Service LLC, serves the entire state of CT, sjminspect.com 203-543-0447 or 203-877-4774 5/16/07
 Thanks to Joe Panimondo for technical editing, April 2011
 This website discusses these air conditioning and heat pump terms and problems: Air Conditioners: Central Air Conditioning Troubleshooting & Repair Guide: How to Inspect, Diagnose, & Repair Central Air Conditioning: Defects in A/C compressors, air handlers, duct work, and controls. We explain how to inspect & repair central air conditioning systems and for homeowners we also answer basic HVAC questions such as what are the basic air conditioning components? We provide guidance in determining air conditioning cooling capacity & energy efficiency, Troubleshooting air conditioning compressor problems, Diagnosing air conditioning air handler problems, Air conditioning condensate problems, Duct system inspections, defects, repairs, Cleaning air conditioning equipment & A/C refrigerants.
 HVAC brands discussed include but are not limited to: Lennox, American Standard, Amana, Everrest, Goodman, Frigidaire, Coleman and Gibson. Brands of related air handling equipment include Honeywell, Aprilaire, White-Rogers, Broan. Nutone, Fantech, Venmar, Arzel, Hi-Velocity, Vanguard, Wirsbo, Weil McLain, Unico, Heat Link, A.O. Smith, Water Furnace, ClimateMaster, Geo-Excel, Command Aire, Friedrich, LG, Mitsubishi, Sanyo, Hart & Cooley, Munchkin, Superstor Ultra, Lochinvar and Knight HVAC equipment.
 HVAC Employment: U.S. Department of Labor website describes HVAC jobs and the employment outlook for HVAC technicians.
[8a] Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Mechanics and Installers,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/installation-maintenance-and-repair/heating-air-conditioning-and-refrigeration-mechanics-and-installers.htm (visited February 05, 2014).
 HVAC Education, Training Accreditation agencies: Quoting the U.S. DOL HVAC website above: After completing the programs below, new technicians generally need between 6 months to 2 years of field experience before they are considered proficient. Three accrediting agencies have set academic standards for HVACR programs:
 HVAC Excellence. 1701 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC 20006 Tel: (800) 394-5268. Quoting: HVAC Excellence is a not for profit organization that has been serving the HVACR industry since 1994. It is our goal to improve competency through validation of the technical education process. By setting standards and verifying that they have been met, we inspire the industry to excel. We know that all of the challenges that face our industry are achievable by continuous improvement in the way that we prepare technicians.
 National Center for Construction Education and Research, 3600 NW 43rd Street, Bldg. G, Gainesville, FL 32606, Tel: 888.622.3720, Quoting: NCCER is a not-for-profit education foundation created to develop industry-driven standardized craft training programs with portable credentials and help address the critical workforce shortage facing the construction industry.
 The Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Accreditation, (PAHRA)
2111 Wilson Blvd., Suite 500, Arlington, VA 22201-3001, (703) 524-8800, Quoting: The Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA) is an independent, third party organization that is a partnership between heating, ventilation, air-conditioning and refrigeration (HVACR) educators and the HVACR industry that will award accreditation to programs that have met and/or exceeded industry validated standards. This programmatic accreditation program is the only one that is supported by the major industry associations.
 HVAC Training Courses, Schools: HVAC Technician Training Schools [http://technicianschool.net/hvac-technician-training-schools/], lists the following schools offering technical courses may offer specific training programs for potential careers, including HVAC technicians. Among HVAC schools that website lists are
Everest Colleges [http://www.everest.edu],
Florida Career College 7891 Pines Blvd Hollywood, FL 33024 http:// www.careercollege.edu/,
Lincoln Institute 2299 Vauxhall Road Union, NJ 07083 http:// www.lincolnedu.com/
NOTE: when considering an HVAC training course or school, check the HVAC education accrediting associations listed above.
 Ratib Bakera is member of Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES), an International training organization for the HVACR industry provides educational and certification programs to HVACR professionals of all experience levels. www.rses.org provides information on the organization and its training materials. Independent testing and certification of HVAC technicians is provided by North American Technician Excellence - NATE - see www.natex.org.
NATE is supported by ASHRAE, the US EPA, and a host of other trade and professional associations.
 Singer brand HVAC equipment brand history: Singer was bought by & became the climate control unit of Dallas-based Snyder General Corp. (founded by a former Singer HVAC manager) in 1982. The name Singer was dropped in 1984. In 1984 Snyder General operations included Arcoaire, Comfortmaker, and McQuay. In 1991 Snyder General sold Arcoaire & Comfortmaker to Inter-City Products. In 1994 Snyder General was acquired by Hong Leong Group Malaysia. Snyder General is at 2001 Ross Avenue Dallas, TX 75201.
 Lennox air conditioning and heat pump owners manuals for air conditioners, air handlers, furnaces, heat pumps, indoor air quality systems, packaged units, water heaters, zone controls and other controls such as thermostats, are provided by Lennox at http://www.lennox.com/support/manuals.asp
 Air Diffusion Council, 1901 N. Roselle Road, Suite 800, Schaumburg, Illinois 60195, Tel: (847) 706-6750, Fax: (847) 706-6751 - email@example.com - www.flexibleduct.org/ - "The ADC has produced the 4th Edition of the Flexible Duct Performance & Installation Standards (a 28-page manual) for use and reference by designers, architects, engineers, contractors, installers and users for evaluating, selecting, specifying and properly installing flexible duct in heating and air conditioning systems. Features covered in depth include: descriptions of typical styles, characteristics and requirements, testing, listing, reporting, certifying, packaging and product marking. Guidelines for proper installation are treated and illustrated in depth, featuring connections, splices and proper support methods for flexible duct. A single and uniform method of making end connections and splices is graphically presented for both non-metallic and metallic with plain ends." The printed manual is available in English only. Downloadable PDF is available in English and Spanish.
 Engineering toolbox properties of water - http://www.engineeringtoolbox.com/water-thermal-properties-d_162.html and email: firstname.lastname@example.org web search 09/16/2010
 Owens Corning Duct Solutions - www.owenscorning.com/ductsolutions/ - provides current HVAC ductwork and duct insulating product descriptions and a dealer locator. Owens Corning Insulating Systems, LLC, One Owens Corning Parkway, Toledo, OH 43659 1-800-GET-PINK™
 "Flexible Duct Media Fiberglas™ Insulation, Product Data Sheet", Owens Corning - see owenscorning.com/quietzone/pdfs/QZFlexible_DataSheet.pdf "Owens Corning Flexible Duct Media Insulation is a lightweight, flexible, resilient thermal and acoustical insulation made of inorganic glass fibers bonded with a thermosetting resin."
 FlowKinetics LLC, 528 Helena Street Bryan, Texas 77801 USA, Tel: (979) 680-0659, Email: email@example.com, Website: www.flowkinetics.com, "FKS 1DP-PBM Multi-Function Meter Pressure, Velocity & Flow User’s Manual", web search 07/16/2012, original source: http://www.flowkinetics.com/FKS_1DP_PBM_Manual.pdf [copy on file] and "FKT Series Flow Measurement And Pressure Acquisition System User's Manual" http://www.flowkinetics.com/FKTSeriesManual.pdf [copy on file]
 Histoire de l'Académie royale des sciences avec les mémoires de mathématique et de physique tirés des registres de cette Académie: 363–376. Retrieved 2009-06-19.- Pitot Tubes, Henri Pitot (1732)
 Wikipedia provided background information about some topics discussed at this website provided this citation is also found in the same article along with a " retrieved on" date. NOTE: because Wikipedia entries are fluid and can be amended in real time, we cite the retrieval date of Wikipedia citations and we do not assert that the information found there is necessarily authoritative. "Pressure sensor", retrieved 7/16/2012
 "GE Zoneline® Owners Manual and Installation Instructions, Heat/Cool Model 2900, Heat Pump Model 3900", General Electric Corporation, [copy on file].
 "GE Zoneline® Owners Manual and Installation Instructions, Heat Pump Model 5800", General Electric Corporation, [copy on file].
 N Lu, YL Xie, Z Huang, "Air Conditioner Compressor Performance Model", U.S. Department of Energy, August 2008, [copy on file as PNNL-17796.pdf] Available to the public from the National Technical Information Service, U.S. Department of Commerce, 5285 Port Royal Rd., Springfield, VA 22161 ph: (800) 553-6847, fax: (703) 605-6900 email: firstname.lastname@example.org online ordering: http://www.ntis.gov/ordering.htm
 Yinger R, R Bravo, and D Martinez. 2006 Air Conditioner Stalling Effects Study/Air Conditioner Testing Procedures. Southern California Edison, Rosemead, California
 Bravo, R, R Yinger, and L Gaillac. 2006. Conditioner Stalling Unit Level Solutions Test Report. Southern California Edison, Rosemead, California.
 Lu N, B Yang and Z Huang. 2008a. Evaluation of Southern California Edison Air-Conditioner Stalling Solutions. PNNL-17686, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland, Washington.
 Danny S. Parker, John R. Sherwin, Bart Hibbs, "Development of High Efficiency Air Conditioner Condenser Fans", ASHRAE Transactions June 2005, [copy on file as FSEC-CR-1674-05.pdf]
 Thanks to Alexis Claro email@example.com who maintains a website offering information about HVAC training found at http://hvaced.com/hvac-training.
Books & Articles on Building & Environmental Inspection, Testing, Diagnosis, & Repair
"Air Conditioning & Refrigeration I & II", BOCES Education, Warren Hilliard (instructor), Poughkeepsie, New York, May - July 1982, [classroom notes from air conditioning and refrigeration maintenance and repair course attended by the website author]
Carson, Dunlop & Associates Ltd., 120 Carlton Street Suite 407, Toronto ON M5A 4K2. Tel: (416) 964-9415 1-800-268-7070 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The firm provides professional home inspection services & home inspection education & publications. Alan Carson is a past president of ASHI, the American Society of Home Inspectors. Thanks to Alan Carson and Bob Dunlop, for permission for InspectAPedia to use text excerpts from The Home Reference Book & illustrations from The Illustrated Home. Carson Dunlop Associates' provides extensive home inspection education and report writing material.
The Illustrated Home illustrates construction details and building components, a reference for owners & inspectors. Special Offer: For a 5% discount on any number of copies of the Illustrated Home purchased as a single order Enter INSPECTAILL in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space.
TECHNICAL REFERENCE GUIDE to manufacturer's model and serial number information for heating and cooling equipment, useful for determining the age of heating boilers, furnaces, water heaters is provided by Carson Dunlop, Associates, Toronto - Carson Dunlop Weldon & Associates Special Offer: Carson Dunlop Associates offers InspectAPedia readers in the U.S.A. a 5% discount on any number of copies of the Technical Reference Guide purchased as a single order. Just enter INSPECTATRG in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space.
The Home Reference Book - the Encyclopedia of Homes, Carson Dunlop & Associates, Toronto, Ontario, 25th Ed., 2012, is a bound volume of more than 450 illustrated pages that assist home inspectors and home owners in the inspection and detection of problems on buildings. The text is intended as a reference guide to help building owners operate and maintain their home effectively. Field inspection worksheets are included at the back of the volume.
Special Offer: For a 10% discount on any number of copies of the Home Reference Book purchased as a single order. Enter INSPECTAHRB in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space. InspectAPedia.com editor Daniel Friedman is a contributing author.
Special Offer: Carson Dunlop Associates offers InspectAPedia readers in the U.S.A. a 5% discount on these courses: Enter INSPECTAHITP in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space. InspectAPedia.com editor Daniel Friedman is a contributing author.
The Horizon Software System manages business operations,scheduling, & inspection report writing using Carson Dunlop's knowledge base & color images. The Horizon system runs on always-available cloud-based software for office computers, laptops, tablets, iPad, Android, & other smartphones