10 Air Conditioner Basics You Must Know

With all the problems on your plate on a given day, it can be tough to find the time to give much attention to your air conditioning system. Yet when your AC breaks down, it can impact every aspect of your operation.

That’s why facilities and operations staff need to understand a few air conditioner basics that help keep everything running smoothly.

Even though a Facilities Manager needs to be a jack-of-all-trades, HVAC may not be your area of expertise. So here’s a guide to the most important air conditioner basics you need to know: the top causes of AC problems, and what you can do to prevent them.

Air Conditioner Basics: Top 5 Causes of Air Conditioner Problems

1. Air flow issues
This is top of the list of air conditioner basics for a reason: air flow issues can cause a wide range of symptoms from temperature variance and stuffy air to frozen coils to compressor failure. Your air conditioning system needs proper air flow to function efficiently and remove heat from your space.

Air flow can be impeded at any point in your system, such as:

  • clogged air filters
  • obstructed condensing units
  • closed registers or blocked vents
  • leaky ductwork

Read more about air flow problems in this related article: Top 10 Causes of HVAC Airflow Problems

2. Dirty coils, filters, lines and drains
Here’s another one of the most important air conditioner basics: a clean HVAC system is more efficient and reliable.

There are all sorts of ways that dirt and debris can take down your air conditioning equipment. Here are just a few common examples:

  • Dirty coils impede the release of heat from the system, causing it to run longer and more frequently as it tries to compensate and keep your space cool. Eventually, the system can overheat and lead to compressor failure.
  • Clogged air filters impede air flow through the system (as discussed above). The system not only runs less efficiently and effectively, but dust starts getting into the equipment and can damage parts.
  • Lines and drains that are stopped up with debris can lead to water leaks, which can damage more than just your HVAC system.

Related Article: AC Leaking Water: Air Conditioner Problems and Troubleshooting Tips

3. Low refrigerant charge
Your system needs the right amount of refrigerant to operate. When the amount in the system, known as “refrigerant charge,” gets too low, you’ll start to experience problems. This is another of the air conditioner basics you must know about.

When your system’s coils and refrigerant lines get corroded (often because they are not cleaned) they can develop leaks. Sometimes you can end up with numerous small refrigerant leaks throughout the system.

When your refrigerant charge gets too low, you’ll notice that the system is no longer able to reach set temperature. It will begin to run constantly to compensate, eventually leading to frozen coils and even compressor failure.

This issue can be tricky to fix, especially when you have many leaks to find and repair. That’s why the best strategy is to prevent those leaks in the first place.

4. Electrical issues
Damaged wiring, capacitors and other electrical parts can quickly take down your system. Damaged electrical parts can also cause circuit breakers to trip.

5. Control issues
Faulty thermostats or incorrect settings in building management system that control your HVAC can lead to temperature variance problems, poor air flow, and even too much humidity.

Controls are air conditioner basics that you should check regularly.

Air Conditioner Basics: Top 5 Steps to Prevent Breakdowns

Now that you understand the air conditioner basics concerning common AC problems, you need to know what steps you can take to prevent those issues from happening.

1. Don’t neglect maintenance
As a Facilities Manager, you probably know that HVAC preventative maintenance is something you should schedule a couple of times a year at a minimum. But when things get busy, it’s easy for that task to fall down on your priority list.

Yet maintenance is at the top of our air conditioner basics list for a reason! Just about ALL of the most common air conditioner problems can be easily prevented when your system is regularly inspected, cleaned and tuned up.

Related article: The Ultimate Commercial HVAC Preventative Maintenance Checklist

2. Clean coils
If you haven’t had this done as part of your preventative maintenance program, having your air conditioner coils cleaned is next on the list of air conditioner basics.

In some cases, you might even need more frequent coil cleaning, if your condensers are located in an area with poor air quality.

Learn more about coil cleaning from this helpful Guide to Air Conditioner Coil Cleaning: Why, How, and How Often.

Coil Cleaning Could Save You Big $$$. Download the Free Guide
3. Change filters

When it comes to air conditioner basics, filters are critical for proper airflow.

Your HVAC technician will change your air filters during preventative maintenance. However, depending on your usage and your indoor air quality, you might need to change filters yourself between scheduled maintenance appointments.

This is likely for businesses dealing with a large concentration of fiber in the air, such as working with fabric or paper.

To learn more about changing filters, read this related article: Why and How to Change An AC Filter

4. Keep equipment clear
This is one of the air conditioner basics that you have the most control over. Remember that your condenser units need space and air flow to release heat.

That means clearing leaves and debris away from them. In mechanical rooms, don’t pile boxes or other equipment too close to the condensing units.

5. Keep an eye on vents and registers
Especially when you’ve got thermostat wars going on in your offices, you must be vigilant about monitoring HVAC vents and registers.

It’s very common for employees to close them, tape something over them, or block them with furniture if they are too cold. Unfortunately, this only compounds the temperature variance problem throughout the building.

It’s smart to regularly walk the floors and check for obstructed registers and vents to keep everything working as designed.

Related article: Office Air Conditioning Battles: Take Control Before Workers Do

We hope you’ve found this guide to air conditioner basics to be helpful in preventing common AC problems in your facility.

Here at Arista we are always happy to answer your questions about specific commercial HVAC concerns. Feel free to reach out to us at any time!

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