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What you can do to help keep your air conditioner running in a heat wave

James Young of Hartman Heating & Air Conditioning cuts refrigerant lines while installing a new air conditioner in a West Valley City home on Aug. 2, 2000. Repair crews are keeping busy with the current heat wave.

James Young of Hartman Heating & Air Conditioning cuts refrigerant lines while installing a new air conditioner in a West Valley City home on Aug. 2, 2000. Repair crews are keeping busy with the current heat wave. (Laura Seitz, Deseret News)



SANDY — Jeff Packard says his repair crews have been busy since Memorial Day, with even more calls coming since the latest heat wave began.

"With these triple digits, we are expecting to be even busier," he said.

The CEO of One Stop Heating and Air Conditioning says they might have around 50 customers waiting for them to get there from Payson to Ogden and Tooele to Park City.

Packard says many of the problems are with airflow, and that can connect back to the filters. People who are in a new home may not know where those are, or others have renters or tenants who do not know how to find the filters.

"If you keep up on your filters and your system can breathe, your system is going to work a lot better," he said.

Other problems include refrigerant leaks, motors that went bad, or outdoor units that broke down. Packard said that there are also older air conditioners that are starting to break down, he said a normal unit usually lasts around 15-20 years.

"A lot of older units see their age and have a hard time keeping up," said Packard.

He said one important thing to do is keep the area around an outdoor unit clear of bushes or other growth. He also recommended lightly hosing off the sides. The units work by sucking in air through the sides and pushing hot air out of the top, and sometimes in the spring, they suck in cotton or other things in the air.

Other tips from the Utah HVAC Contractors Association include:

  • Check the condensate hose to be sure it is not blocked with algae.
  • Clean the outside condensing unit screen of leaves.
  • Listen for unusual noises and call a professional when necessary.
  • While thermostats rarely fail outright, they can degrade over time as mechanical parts stick or lose their calibration. Older units will send faulty signals if they've been knocked out of level or have dirty switches. To recalibrate an older unit, use a wrench to adjust the nut on the back of the mercury switch until it turns the system on and, using a room thermometer, set it to the correct temperature. Caulk the hole where the thermostat wire comes through the wall, or a draft could trick it into thinking the room is warmer or colder than it really is.
  • Most houses with forced-air furnaces have a standard furnace filter made from loosely woven spun-glass fibers designed to keep it and its ductwork clean. Unfortunately, they don't improve indoor air quality. If you want better air quality, you need to upgrade to a media filter, which sits in between the main return duct and the blower cabinet. Made of a deeply pleated, paper-like material, media filters are at least seven times better than a standard filter at removing dust and other particles.
  • Although media filters can last up to two years, their tight weave can restrict a furnace's ability to blow air through the house. To ensure a steady, strong airflow through the house, choose a filter that matches your blower's capacity.

Packard recommended anyone in the market to buy an air conditioner should do that soon. There are major shortages nationwide, and price increases coming industry-wide on August first.

Mary Richards

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