For years, R22 refrigerant was used in the majority of in-home air conditioning systems and considered the king of refrigeration. Well, the times have certainly changed.
Since January 2020, the production and importation of R22 has been banned, allowing only for continuing use of R22 from recycled or stockpiled reserves because of its negative impact on the environment. By January 2030, the EPA’s goal is to phase out the use of R22 almost entirely.
Considering that the majority of air conditioning and other cooling systems manufactured and installed before 2010, when heavy R22 regulations began, utilize R22 refrigerant, these mandates have changed much about the education and practices of HVAC technicians when it comes to refrigerants.
It has spurred us in the HVAC industry to explore and understand more environmentally and efficient refrigerant alternatives as well as inspired technicians to educate their customers on the matter. After all, the phasing out of R22 refrigerant is also going to put customers in the position to make some important decisions regarding their systems as well.
When those questions and decisions do come up, as an HVAC technician or a technician in training it’ll be your responsibility to help your customers make the best and most informed decisions for understanding and replacing their R22 refrigerant systems.
Here are some of the most important things for you and your customers to understand about R22 refrigerant.
Why R22 refrigerant is banned
The reason refrigerant has fallen under so much scrutiny over the past few decades is the negative impact it has been found to have on the environment. Refrigerants can produce emissions that are destructive to the Earth’s ozone layer and contribute to global warming.
This revelation spurred the EPA and governments across the world to begin enforcing stricter regulations on the use of refrigerants and creating new required certifications for HVAC technicians on the handling and disposal of refrigerant, such as the EPA 608 Certification.
So, while 2020 was a year that ramped up restrictions on production and importing of R22 refrigerant, regulations on environmentally harmful refrigerant has been ongoing for decades, with 2010 being a major turning point.
Your customers can continue to use their equipment
The most common question you are likely to encounter from your customers regarding their R22 refrigerant units is “am I still allowed to use it?” The answer is, of course, yes. While the ban exists to cease the production and import of R22, it doesn’t ban the ongoing use of it. So, it is important to put your customer’s mind at ease on this fact.
However, while the ongoing use of their current system is fine, it will present some serious issues for them going forward. As their HVAC technician, someone they should value and trust as an expert in your field, you do have an obligation to inform your customers of what they will be dealing with long term with these systems.
Maintaining their R22 refrigerant system is going to cost them
Because of the ban in production and import, ongoing repairs and replacements on R22 refrigerant systems will have to come from the remaining stockpile of reserves – a stockpile that will continue to rapidly dwindle over the next few years.
As supply diminishes and repair and maintenance demand for these systems (many of which installed before 2010) increases, it will create a landscape in which the cost of these repairs will rise and rise and rise. In the next few years, a refrigerant replacement job that would normally be fairly straightforward and relatively inexpensive will cost your customers a great deal more because of the limited supply.
As you encounter customers with cooling systems that utilize R22, it is a good idea to make this situation known to them and help them understand their options going forward. They may be stubborn and OK with paying more for the sake of living with their system until it finally kicks the bucket. However, you should make them at least understand the value of upgrading and replacing their cooling systems with more efficient and environmentally friendly modern systems.
As HVAC technicians continue to work in a post-R22 world, knowing the available R22 alternatives will help you be a better and more well-rounded HVAC technician, as well as become a more valuable resource for your customers when they are searching for replacements for their outdated cooling systems.
While no refrigerant is perfect and each has their own pluses and minuses, our preferred R22 alternative is R421a. R421a has 0 ODP, is non-flammable, is useful in a number of different applications, can in many cases can be used as a direct R22 replacement, and most importantly is one of the more environmentally friendly refrigerants available.
R32, R407c, and other greener refrigerant alternatives are also available and preferred by some. Like we said, there is no end-all be-all refrigerant choice. Good HVAC technicians will familiarize themselves with as many as they can and come to their own conclusions as to which they prefer and recommend to their customers.
The Training Center of Heating and Air Conditioning takes the health of the beautiful world around us very seriously, so refrigerant education is something we take very seriously and even make EPA 608 certification a part of the requirements for graduation from our school.
If you are interested in learning more about a career in HVAC as a technician, check out upcoming schedule of classes to find the session that best suits you.
The beautiful thing about beginning your career as an HVAC technician is that you don’t need any previous experience or knowledge. At the Training Center for Heating and Air Conditioning, our classes cover the absolute basics, so students of all knowledge levels can be on equal footing. All you need is a good work ethic and a willingness to learn.
That being said, for anybody considering education and training in heating and cooling can certainly benefit from familiarizing themselves with some important elements of working in HVAC.
One of the most important things to understand during your HVAC training is the language and terminology. HVAC installation and repair incorporates many common electrical terms that you may have heard before or run into during previous science classes in school. Understanding these terms is crucial for HVAC technicians and beginning your education with knowledge of them can get you started off on the right foot.
Here are some common electrical terms HVAC technicians need to be familiar with and what they mean. Each of these terms relates to different materials and parts of a heating or cooling system that relate to the transfer of electricity.
An electrical conductor is any kind of material that allows electricity to flow easily through it with little to no resistance. Certain metals like copper, aluminum, silver, and gold are all terrific conductors of electricity. This is why many of the wires used in HVAC equipment are made of these materials. This is also a great reason why practicing extreme safety precautions when working with live wires.
An electrical resistor is any material or component in the electrical circuit that resists the flow of electricity, limiting the amount of electricity that passes through them at any given time. Resistors are important because without them limiting electrical flow to motors, coils, lights, and heat elements, these components would become overloaded with electricity and more quickly burn out or overload causing a loss of efficiency and creating potential hazards.
An electrical capacitor stores electricity for short periods. Many HVAC systems have dual capacitors, a start capacitor and a run capacitor. The start capacitor provides the electrical power needed to get the compressor or fan motor of the heating and cooling system started up. The run capacitor, on the other hand, in turn, supplies the compressor or motor the energy it requires to keep them running.
An electrical insulator is a material or component of a heating and cooling system that does not allow electricity to flow through it. Wires and thermal pipes in an HVAC system are equipped with insulating coverings to prevent the loss of energy and heat so the unit can run more efficiently.
Now don’t think that knowing the meaning of these common electrical terms makes you an expert. There are still plenty of other important terms you’ll need to know as you continue your HVAC education. However, for folks looking to start their journey without much past experience, understanding these terms can get you off to a good start.
Ready to begin your HVAC career? Call the Training Center for Heating and Air Conditioning today to learn about our upcoming classes and reserve your spot today.
You might not have given the types of HVAC units available much thought when installing one in your home. However, each unit has its own benefits and drawbacks. If you plan on installing an HVAC unit, it is worth taking a second look at the four basic types of HVAC units available.
Heating and Cooling Split Systems
Heating and Cooling Split Systems are the most common types of HVAC systems. The system is split between two main units, one for heating and one for cooling. Hence the name “split system.”
These units contain both an indoor and outdoor component. Do you know that large box you see blowing out air on the side of homes? That is the outdoor piece, also known as the condensing unit. This cooling system outside using refrigerant, compressors, and coils to cool air, and a fan to blow out hot air.
This system uses a traditional thermostat to manage the temperature. Because of this, the system is able to keep most houses at a desirable temperature. These systems are most widely used because they are most generally applicable. These units do not require any specific needs or environmental factors. This makes them perfect for most homes.
Hybrid Split System
A hybrid system is similar to the split system, but with some key differences. These systems are on the rise due to their ability to mitigate energy costs through their electric hybrid heating system. This differentiates them from other types of HVAC systems.
The ability to switch between gas power to electric power allows homeowners to decide how they want to heat their homes. Gas power is much quicker and more complete than electric, but electric power is more efficient and quieter. This system uses traditional ducts, as well as thermostats, and provides all the benefits of a split system, but with the added option to conserve energy. Plus, these units can lessen utility bills.
A duct-free system, also known as a mini-split system, provides big benefits for certain needs. However, these systems typically have large upfront costs. These HVAC units are individual units in each room. These units are perfect for new additions to homes, such as garages, additions, or additional buildings, because it is easier to install. Plus, this system allows independent control over each unit. These types of HVAC units are also beneficial for service businesses such as hotels or venues, allowing tenants to control individual temperatures.
Another benefit is energy conservation since individual rooms that are being used are being heated, it keeps exterior or unused rooms from wasting energy. The small size of a ductless cooling system and its zoning capabilities allows for greater energy efficiency.
Despite the benefits, these systems require regular and intensive cleaning and maintenance. This is important to keep up with as the cost of total repairs and replacements are quite expensive.
Packaged Heating and Air
Packaged heating and air is the most niche unit. This system is typically stored within the house and is usually kept in an attic or top storage place. It serves to both cool and heat a home.
Its compact size makes it useful for smaller spaces or houses. Its size allows it to be placed within the home if the exterior is not an option. Despite its size, this type of unit is able to be very efficient and easily maintained. These units are typically used in warmer climates since the heating element is not as strong as other systems.
There are many types of heating and cooling systems, but now we hope you are a little more prepared to make a decision. These types of systems are just a fraction of the things you will learn about during your time here at the Training Center of Air Conditioning & Heating in Houston, Texas. If you or someone you know is interested in signing up for classes, please feel free to contact us so we can chat about available options.
Being an HVAC technician involves a lot of very technical and precise work, particularly when it comes to AC installation. This is why a proper education and training is so important for a long and successful career in the industry.
Unfortunately, not all technicians get things right during AC installations. In fact, there are a few practices that HVAC technicians actually get wrong more often than not. Why is that? It could be many things from displacency to simply not receiving proper education.
So, why is it important to talk about the shortcomings of AC technicians? In such a precise field that so many people rely on for their important service, these shortcomings are unacceptable. For those that are considering pursuing a career as a certified HVAC technician it is just as important to know the wrong way as the right way.
As an HVAC professional, you want to strive to provide the best care and service to your customers that depend on you to stay safe and cool. Knowing where others in the industry fall short can help you know where you can avoid the same pitfalls and become a more successful AC technician.
Keep in mind these common mistakes that HVAC technicians make during AC installation. You’ll notice the biggest pattern that emerges from these improper installation missteps is that they each can have serious negative impacts on the performance, efficiency, and lifespan of the air conditioning unit.
70% of technicians don’t follow proper vacuum procedures
One of the most important things technicians ignore not following proper AC vacuum procedures during installation. Vacuuming is important because it helps remove any excess moisture left within the system. Over time, moisture build up can cause long term damage from poor performance, corrosion, and even freezing with the AC system. Never skip this important step in the post-installation process.
70% of technicians don’t adjust for proper air flow
Ensuring an air conditioner has been adjusted for proper air flow ensures that it can efficiently and easily keep in-home air cool and comfortable for the customer. Proper air flow lets air more easily reach all the nooks and crannies, ensuring no random hot spots. When not adjusted properly, the system has a harder time performing and has to put in extra effort to keep the home cool, which not only can shoot up a customer’s utility bill but also causes AC’s to burn out faster than they should.
70% of technicians don’t charge unit per manufacturer recommendations
Correctly charging your customer’s AC system will ensure there is proper refrigeration to pull out hot air and keep their home cool. However, despite the fact that most manufacturers provide step-by-step instructions and offer their best practice recommendations, this correctly charging units often gets overlooked. The result is either an undercharged unit that can’t keep up with the heat and overwork itself or an overcharged unit that is loud and draws far more energy than it needs to.
90% of air conditioning installations are incorrect
Since these three steps during AC installations are so important, it may not be surprising to hear that more installations are done incorrectly than not. But, for an industry that prides itself on hard workers and providing a necessary service to its customers, this is a number that simply cannot continue to last.
Here at the Training Center for Air Conditioning and Heating, we are attempting to lower the statistics through a comprehensive training and education program for the next generation of HVAC technicians. The course is designed to teach students the skills and techniques required for entry-level employment into the residential and light commercial heating ventilating and air conditioning so that they can not just install and repair heating and cooling systems, but do it the right way to better serve their customers and help make them a more successful professional.
Interested in enrolling in an upcoming class? Learn more about how to join here.
It’s very rare to find a home equipped with an air conditioning system that doesn’t also have a furnace. Even in the Houston area, where hot weather is the norm and people rarely turn on their heaters, you’ll still find yourself working on plenty of heaters during your HVAC career. Heating units are similar to air conditioners but require a slightly different focus to repair or maintain.
Heaters may not be the most commonly used home fixture in Houston, but they’re still important for homeowners’ comfort and for your experience. Are you ready to help Houston families stay comfortable during the cooler season this year? Keep reading to refresh your memory.
How Do Electric Heaters Work?
At its core, an electric heat furnace functions similarly to a floor space heater that plugs into the wall. A space heater consists of a heating element and a fan to blow the hot air into the room. If you increase the size of both the fan and the heating element and add an evaporator coil, you have an electric heat furnace. Due to its simple design, an electric heat furnace rarely fails and is easy to diagnose and repair when it does have problems.
Electric heaters, of course, require electricity to power the massive heating element–at least 240 volts, in fact, though the exact motor power you need depends on the size of the house. (The fan uses power too, but not nearly as much.) Look for 1-2 large wires coming from the breaker box powering this heater. A transformer inside the heater converts the power to 24 volts, which is then diverted to the thermostat that determines whether or not the heater turns on. When the thermostat is triggered, it sends those 24 volts of power from the red wire up a white wire back to the furnace. The power then snaps the relays, allowing the heat strips and fan to power on and start blowing warm air into the home.
Remember, the strips in an electric heating element heat up very quickly. The fan isn’t just essential to warming up the house. The breeze it generates also cools the strips down just enough to keep the entire system at a safe temperature. Imagine what could happen if the heater came on but the fan stopped working, allowing the strips to overheat!
Pro Tip: When installing a thermostat and electric heater, program the thermostat specifically for electric heat. The transfer of power is different depending on whether the heater is powered by gas or electricity.
Maintaining Electric Heat Furnaces
Maintenance of an electric heater tends to consist of two primary tasks. First, check the AC coil regularly and keep it clean so air can flow unrestricted. Second, check the wiring connections and tighten any that seem too loose. Wires that carry high amounts of electricity naturally loosen over time, creating a significant fire hazard. When in doubt about whether or not a particular wire is safe, don’t hesitate to call an electrician.
Additionally, check the manual for any recommendations or cautions from the manufacturer. Too many HVAC technicians forget the wealth of information that their manuals hold. Take advantage of this handy guide!
Electric furnaces are 100% efficient, meaning that the homeowner gets heat from every bit of electricity they pay for. The only potential drawback to this is the cost of the electricity used to power the furnace. Depending on how cold the house gets and how often the furnace is used, this cost can add up quickly. Gas heating is generally cheaper even when you factor in its less than 100% efficiency rating. Not every homeowner can choose gas–the builder may have opted for electrical wiring as the cheaper initial option–but if your clients ask for a recommendation, gas heating is generally a better choice for them.
To summarize, the pros of an electric heater are as follows:
- Cheap, easy installation
- Cheap upfront cost for you and your client
- No roof penetration necessary
The largest drawback of an electrical heater is simply the cost of the electricity used to power it.
Understanding Electric Heat Furnaces
In your HVAC career, you’ll be faced with a variety of challenges in a variety of settings. Differing machinery or systems are only the tip of the iceberg. By educating yourself on how a well-run system should function and understanding its pros and cons, you can provide better services to your clients and gain more business in the future.
Join the conversation to learn more about HVAC repairs and maintenance.
Home AC units use motors to move the air and motors to move the refrigerant. Whether due to overheating, a lack of proper maintenance, or old age, HVAC motors can break down and cause the entire system to come to a halt. That’s where you as the technician come in! How much do you know about diagnosing and repairing damaged AC motors?
Common Air Conditioning Motors
Every home is different. In your HVAC career, you’re likely to encounter AC systems ranging from the very old to the factory new. Consequently, you need to understand the different types of motors you’ll encounter and how to properly handle and replace each one as needed. Take some time to familiarize yourself with the 5 motors you’re most likely to encounter:
- Condenser fan motor
- Blower motor
- ECM motor
- Combustion fan motors
- Compressor motors
1) Condenser Fan Motor
Since a condenser fan motor will get rained on and be exposed to the elements, it’s rated for use outdoors sealed up on the ends and sides to keep water out. These motors are usually one speed and come in horsepower ranges from 1/6 hp to 1/3 hp. They always have a capacitor, usually a dual capacitor if it’s an original motor and a single capacitor if it’s a replacement aftermarket motor. The factory motor usually has three wires and the aftermarket version usually has 4 wires.
The main thing to remember on a condenser fan motor is the main service issue is usually a bad capacitor. This issue generally surfaces during summer, when the weather is hottest. If the motor is bad, measure the fan blade height to the finger guard before you ever remove it. The placement of the blade is absolutely paramount to the operation of the condenser, even more so than its original placement on the motor shaft. Consequently, you should always keep any replacement fan blades at the exact same height, since getting this blade height wrong by even an inch can mean the compressor will overheat and burn out. If you need to replace the condenser fan motor and capacitor, take note of these key pieces of information first:
- Frame size
Above all, never try to force the replacement blade onto the motor. After all, a motor is easy to replace while the correct fan blade might take you weeks to find.
Finally, don’t fall back on the assumption that you can simply substitute a different pitch blade when necessary. The wrong size or type will not work and may overheat the fan motor or simply not move enough air, meaning that the AC unit won’t do its job. Airflow at the condenser is critical.
2) Blower Motor
Another popular air moving AC unit motor is the blower motor. The blower motor looks similar to the condenser fan motor, except the blower is ventilated on the sides and/or the ends to allow air to pass through. Blower motors also have a capacitor, in addition to way more wires than condenser fan motors.
The main cause for blower motors failing is that dirty air passed over them and stopped up the vent hole, causing the motor to overheat. This indicates a deeper problem since the air filter should catch dirt before it reaches the motor. Sometimes a blower motor experiences a capacitor failure, causing it to turn backward. They look normal running this way but move almost no air. After a couple of hours, the evaporator coil freezes and the house overheats, prompting the homeowner to call for help.
To replace a bad blower motor, remove the blower housing with the motor and blower. You have to remove the curved plate first, but this is where the wheel slides out of the housing. Make sure to reattach the blower wheel securely when you’re done to avoid burning out your new motor. Finally, remember that blower motors also have universal replacements. Just remember that electric heat furnaces us 230-volt blower motors (in contrast, gas furnaces use 115-volt motors) and you’re good to go!
3) ECM Motor
The ECM motor is a blower motor with an electronic control module mounted on the end. These motors are special; some must be set up at the supply house with special programming. Others have program modules you can buy to do it yourself. A few particularly advanced models even allow you to program the unit from your phone!
ECM motors can cost up to $1000, so be sure to get current pricing before you give your client a quote. Beginning HVAC technicians may benefit from getting an expert technician’s input on how to handle ECM motor repairs since, considering their high price tag and complicated inner workings, trial and error is not the way to go with ECM motors. When you’re dealing with equipment this expensive and advanced, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Pro Tip: If you get stuck on an HVAC job and can’t get hold of an expert, call the AC motor’s service number to talk to a brand representative. They’re usually willing to help you out.
4) Combustion Fan Motors
Combustion fan motors are found in gas furnaces. These types of motors don’t have a capacitor, just two wires. It’s very easy to diagnose what’s wrong with a combustion fan motor. If the motor is receiving its full 115 volts but not running, it’s burned out and the whole thing likely needs to be replaced. You can usually buy replacement units from factory brand reps.
Since these motors tend to last as long as the gas furnace they’re installed on, you likely won’t see too many combustion fan motor failures. But even when you do, the replacement won’t take you very long and will be a pretty straightforward process.
5) Compressor Motors
The most expensive and hardest to replace of the air conditioning motors is the compressor. This motor is sealed inside the compressor housing, so you can’t determine visually if the motor has failed. The only parts you can test are the three terminals sticking out of it.
Compressor motors are really two motors in one: the start motor and the run motor. They just happen to be connected together at the common wire terminal. The start windings are very small wires that are wound on the motor to deliver a quick burst of power and start the motor. Since the start windings are only designed for the initial spark. if the start windings have to work for more than about three seconds, they’re likely to burn out. The motor’s run capacitor ensures the start windings don’t work too hard and keeps the entire motor running correctly.
While this is an expensive part to misdiagnose (a new compressor can cost up to $1000 wholesale), don’t panic. It’s difficult to correctly diagnose a motor you can’t see, so the majority of problems with compressor motors come from misdiagnosis rather than equipment failure. Using a meter, test each of the three terminal connections to see if they display the proper resistance sums and have any charge to ground. If there is any reading to the ground, the motor is bad.
Be sure to always remove the power and discharge any capacitors in the unit. The compressor might not read anything when you test it–this is when 90% are incorrectly condemned. The truth is that compressors have an internal safety switch that turns the motor off when it overheats, and if you test the motor while the switch is activated, it’s easy to assume the motor has burned out. With this information in mind, never rush to the assumption that the compressor is burned out. Compressors should last the life of the unit. Before you try to replace the motor, try to determine the cause of failure or see if the safety switch eventually deactivates.
AC Motor Replacement & Repair
Knowing the normals of each common type of HVAC motor is a critical first step in developing your long-term HVAC career. Take the time to familiarize yourself with the most common types of motors and learn how to repair or replace each as necessary. As you build your understanding of air conditioner systems and maintenance, you’ll become better at your job as a technician.
Connect with us to learn more about our HVAC classes and register for our January 2020 term.