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Hey Robert,

I’ve noticed that there is ice building up around my air conditioner. The air conditioner seems to be working OK, but if this is indicative of a problem I would rather nip it in the bud and get it taken care of. I remember you mentioned something about an “A” coil. Would you mind going into more detail on that? If the icing might be related, could you explain how to clean the coil properly? Thank you,

Larry J.

Hi Larry,

This can be caused by one of two things – you’ve got a dirty filter that is causing the unit to ice up or it is low on refrigerant. First, check the filter. They need to be changed once a month if you have pets in the house or if you leave the windows and doors open. For relatively “clean” environments, every two to three months should be fine between filter changes. But, at $3 each, it is well worth the cost to keep them clean, considering the damage dirty filters can cause your air conditioning system.

The A-coil sits above the air handler. It is like a radiator coil that sits in an “A” configuration. Dirty filters will allow dirt to go up inside the A-coil and will restrict the amount of air flow to your house.

Even a clean filter that is a little too small for the frame will allow dust to pass through the gap and will cause problems. One result is high electrical bills because it will not cool as efficiently and the system will run longer or, in some cases, constantly and not cycle off.

To clean, the sheet metal cowling has to be removed to access the coil. Soap and water will not work. You have to use a condenser coil cleaner with a ShopVac. Spray the cleanser on the coil and then rake the fins of the A-coil with the vacuum. Keep vacuuming until you get all of the dirt out. You will see a huge difference once the coil is cleaned. Most people need an air conditioner man for this type of project, but if you’re handy this should be simple.

If the A-coil is clean and the system is still showing problems, call an air conditioner company and have them check the charge. They will hook up their gauges and let you know if you are low on refrigerant. Keep in mind that refrigerant in an air conditioner compressor is like oil in a car. If it is low on oil, the engine runs hotter. If it runs hotter, you are going to prematurely burn out the coils in the compressor.

I have my air conditioner system serviced every year. It cost me pennies and my units run efficiently. My home is always as cool as I want it to be. I am a stickler about filters and annual air conditioner servicing.

Another reason why it is critical to maintain your equipment is if your condenser goes out, you’ll not only have to replace it but you will also have to replace the air handler inside your house. You used to be able to just replace the condenser, but due to the new refrigeration laws, you now have to replace everything, a completely new system, for reasons of compatibility.

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Robert Lamoureux of IMS Construction, Valencia, C.A., has 30 years experience as commercial general, electrical and plumbing contractor. The opinions expressed in “Your Home Improvements” are not to replace the recommendations of a qualified contractor after a thorough visual inspection has been made.

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