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Around the house: Dirt causes air-conditioner pipe freeze

By: Ken Moon Special to The Gazette
May 19, 2018 Updated: May 19, 2018 at 7:31 am
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HVAC technician working on a capacitor part for condensing unit.

Dear Ken: My air-conditioning pipes freeze. Is there something I'm doing wrong or is the system defective? - Gary

Answer: You're apparently restricting the system somehow. Without sufficient airflow across the evaporator coils (that box sitting on top of the furnace), the system gets out of balance and freezes. First, check to see if your furnace filter needs changing. A matted layer of pet hair and dirt can really slow the air throughput. If the filter is clean, you'll need a checkout and good cleaning by an HVAC contractor.

Air conditioning is Aa dehumidification process that produces lots of water, condensed out of the air in your home. (That's why that drip line leads out from the furnace into the floor drain.) The moisture encourages the accretion of dust and dirt on the coils, which acts like an insulator. Every four or five years, enough of this crud accumulates that the coils need a good cleaning. Some contractors simply squirt solvent on them. But a thorough, professional job requires that the coils be slid at least partway out of the furnace for access to both sides of the assembly. Once all that foreign material is gone, the freezing will quit.

Dear Ken: How can I wallpaper over textured walls? I tried to use pre-pasted paper, but it fell off. Is that because the walls are textured? - Sally

Answer: The texture probably has less to do with it than the lack of preparation. Wash the walls with some white vinegar and water or a diluted mixture of Murphy's Oil Soap. That will de-grease them, but they'll still need to be de-glossed. Use some fine sandpaper, say 120 grit, to lightly sand the slick surface of the old paint. Then your pre-pasted wallpaper will cling just fine. This all works pretty well for a "knockdown" texture - one that had the bumps troweled flat before the finish dried. If yours is heavier, you may want to install a liner paper to hide the bumps, especially if your wallpaper is a little shiny or glossy.

It's important to just wet, not soak, the new paper. Fold it in on itself, glue-to-glue, and let it "relax" for five minutes or so. That will ensure that the adhesive is fully activated.

Dear Ken: I've gotten an air-conditioning bid for my 3,000-square-foot ranch-style home. They want to put in a 5-ton Rheem unit. Do you know if I'm on the right track? - Robert

Answer: Rheem is a legacy brand well-known to the air-conditioning trades. Other good ones, in no particular order, include Trane, Carrier and Lennox. Any of these would be a good choice, but if possible, I like to marry brands together. So if you can, choose the same manufacturer as your furnace.

Five tons sounds like an Arizona-sized unit. Around here, for a house of your size, a 3 or 3 1/2 ton system would be more typical. This is a big deal, because an oversized system will freeze up (see above). Unless something is unusual about your home, I'd ask the contractor to verify that they used the ASHRAE tables to calculate your cooling load. These are the national guidelines used to figure heating and cooling sizes.

Finally, choose a basic SEER (seasonal energy efficiency rating) of 13, which is the minimum now required by the government. You could buy more efficient units, but our cooling season is so short that it's seldom worth paying more for the extra efficiency.

Dear Ken: Our older toilet doesn't always empty itself. None of the other drains are slow. What could be the problem? - Jonathan

Answer: You may need to clean out the holes under the rim. Use an L-shaped Allen wrench in a diameter that will just slip into the holes to remove scale and rust that might have accumulated over the years. Also, if your toilet has an inlet hole in the bottom of the bowl (a so-called siphon jet) you should clean it out, too. That flow is what starts the siphoning action to pull material out of the bowl. If you still lack flushing power, you may need to remove the toilet from the floor and look for some obstruction under the bowl or in the now-exposed piping.

-

Moon is a home inspector in the Pikes Peak region. His radio show airs at 9 a.m. Saturdays on KRDO, FM 105.5 and AM 1240. Visitaroundthehouse.com

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